5 Ways Lack of Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

The changes that occur in your body during sleep allow you to maintain optimal mental health.

Researchers say that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep helps boost memory and learning. Deep sleep, on the other hand, lowers your body temperature, slows down breathing and heart rate and relaxes muscles. These changes strengthen your immune system and keep your brain healthy.

People who don’t enjoy these two categories of sleep—REM and deep sleep—tend to struggle with mental health issues.

It’s also true that people with mental problems are more likely to have sleep disorders compared to the general population. According to Harvard Health, only 10 to 18 percent of the general U.S population struggles with insomnia, while 50 to 80 percent of psychiatric patients have sleep problems.

Lack of Sleep and Mental Health - The changes that occur in your body during sleep allow you to maintain optimal mental health.

Lack of Sleep and Mental Health

Now, don’t assume you’re safe because you don’t have mental health issues. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing the conditions below.

1. Anxiety Disorder

As is the case with most mental health issues, there’s a chicken-and-egg relationship between anxiety disorder and sleep deprivation. People with anxiety take longer to fall asleep and don’t usually sleep deeply. Also, insomnia has been linked to a higher risk of anxiety.

One study that tracked participants for four years found that the number of people with insomnia who ended up developing anxiety was higher than that of participants without insomnia.

2. Depression

In the study above, people with insomnia also had higher rates of depression. In fact, the link between sleep disorder and depression is stronger than that between anxiety and sleep disorder.

Studies show that up to 90 percent of people with depression struggle with sleep problems. Even worse, people with depression who struggle with sleep problems are more likely to commit suicide compared to patients with depression who sleep normally.

3. Poor Decision-Making Skills

You’ve probably made poor decisions after a night of sleeplessness but then went back to normal. Unfortunately, this effect can last longer if you don’t get enough sleep every night.

Research shows that sleep deprivation has a dampening effect on brain cell activity. When you’re sleep deprived, the neurons in your brain send signals at a slower rate, leading to reduced reaction time and decision-making skills.

4. Bipolar Disorder

Patients with bipolar disorder report needing less sleep during manic episodes. Reports also show that insomnia tends to worsen before an episode of mania.

Additionally, sleep loss can trigger manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder, according to research.

5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Harvard Health explains that kids with ADHD sleep for a shorter duration, have a harder time falling asleep and experience restless sleep. On the flip side, children dealing with sleep deprivation are more likely to develop ADHD and become emotionally unstable.

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Improving Your Quality of Sleep

People with mental health issues can improve quality of sleep using the same strategies the general population uses. Some of the things you can do today to improve your quality of your sleep include:

  • Reduce exposure of the blue light emitted by your phone, laptop, or TV, one hour before bed.
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic and caffeinated drinks six hours before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cold.
  • Take a warm shower before bed.

Has sleep deprivation impacted your mental health? If you feel comfortable, share your experiences in the comments.

Photos via Getty Images


Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley2 months ago

Thank you.

Kathy K
Kathy K2 months ago


Maria P
Maria P2 months ago

thank you for posting

David C
David C2 months ago

sleep and mental health go hand in hand

David C
David C2 months ago


Shaz Sick
Past Member 2 months ago

I have Bipolar. Thanks for the advice.

Elle B
Elle B2 months ago


Danuta W
Danuta W2 months ago

Thank you for posting

Caitlin L
Caitlin L2 months ago

Thank you

Angeles M
Angeles Madrazo2 months ago

Thank you