How Sleep Affects Mental Health | Guest Post by Sanmay Sarkar

We often come across friends and family members who can almost instantaneously point out that we haven’t been sleeping well. Most of the time it is either the baggy eyes or the lethargic disposition that gives you away. Increased blood sugar, high blood pressure, back pain, etc., are conditions that are often associated with a poor sleep health.

However, a lack of proper sleep can equally, if not in a higher degree, affect your mental health as well. Let us therefore quickly glance through some of the mental health conditions triggered by sleep deprivation to better understand how sleep affects mental health.

#01 Stress

The relationship between sleep deprivation and stress is mutually dependent on each other. When the body doesn’t receive the required amount of sleep, it becomes harder to deal with the stress involved with every day activities such as meeting deadlines, driving a vehicle, participating in athletic games, etc. This marked decrease in the ability to work under pressure or take up a new task is a result of the disrupted cortisol levels in the body. A good way to deal with all that accumulated stress is to incorporate a bedtime ritual in your usual sleep schedule.

#02 Depression

Major sleep disorders like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are commonly associated with depression. Studies in the past have found that people suffering with depression are very likely to have had a history of experiencing sleep disorders in the past. The psychological and pharmacological treatments of depression are known to be less fruitful when the body doesn’t maintain a good balance between sleep and mental health.

#03 Mood

According to a past study, sleep deprivation is responsible for a range of mood disorders and behavioral changes. The researchers suggest that a lack of sleep can have a greater impact on your mood and behavior than on your cognitive and motor functions. Such sleep deprived individuals are more likely to express negative emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, irritability, etc. While most of these states are short-lived, it is crucial to ensure a proper sleeping environment that ensures a restful night of sleep. Go through this handy list of effective tips to ensure proper sleep comfort during bedtime.

#04 Memory Consolidation

Not getting enough restful sleep in the night can not only make it harder to recollect old memories but can also create hurdles in learning something new. While it is true that we learn new things and recall old memories only when we are awake, the process of memory consolidation takes place when we are asleep. This process of storing memories in the brain’s hippocampus and neocortex therefore, takes a toll when you are sleep deprived.

#05 Work Efficiency

A lot of studies have shown how the ability to perform a work efficiently can reduce dramatically when the body doesn’t receive the right amount of sleep. It is therefore not surprising that people are advised to have a good night’s sleep when they have a test or an athletic event the next day. Just like the vicious cycle between stress and sleep deprivation, people facing decreased productivity can experience a loss of sleep and that in turn can further deteriorate their performance at work.

#06 Alertness and Concentration

Similar to learning and memory, daytime alertness and the ability to concentrate are also markedly reduced under sleep deprivation. Daytime drowsiness and lack of concentration are one of the leading causes of accidents at workplace or while driving. Researchers have found that the response time and daytime alertness see a positive growth when you receive a good night’s sleep on a constant basis. Well-rested individuals are less likely to get distracted while at work when compared to sleep-deprived individuals.

#07 ADHD

Mental health conditions like ADHD which are marked by an acute ability to maintain focus for longer periods are also commonly associated a poor sleep quality. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which is prevalently seen among children, is known to increase restlessness and interruptions during sleep. Sleep deprivation can easily be considered as one of the symptoms of ADHD as about half of the patients suffering with ADHD are also found to face trouble while sleeping.

#08 Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, which is a mental health illness marked by manic episodes, is also associated with a decrease in sleep quality. Patients suffering from this illness have been studied to have increasingly faced difficulty in falling asleep, especially before experiencing an episode. Both, excessive sleeping and lack of sleep are conditions that are commonly seen in people facing this condition. The emotional high and lows not only disrupt the regular sleep wake cycle but also contribute towards lowering the mood.

Bottom line:

Most of the above-mentioned serious mental health conditions can be treated with medications and therapies. However, a consistently good sleep health is absolutely necessary to make sure that the treatment works effectively. Do not hesitate to visit a mental health professional to better understand the impact of sleep on mental health and prevent such conditions from worsening.