Sleep is a crucial part of our daily routine, and it plays an important role in maintaining our physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation can lead to several health problems, including depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. In this blog, we will take a look at how sleep impacts our mental health.
Sleep & Mental Health
According to Licensed Professional Counselor and Sex Therapist, Leah Simmons, “studies have shown that lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can lead to (or increase symptoms of) various mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and mood disorders”. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maintain good health. Sleep is essential for the brain to function correctly, and it helps us regulate our emotions, memory, and cognitive functions. When we sleep, our brain processes the information we have taken in during the day, which helps us to consolidate our memories and learn new skills.
Sleep & Depression
Depression is a common mental health problem, and studies have shown that people who suffer from depression often have sleep problems. Lack of sleep can lead to the development of depressive symptoms, and people who suffer from depression often have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This can create a vicious cycle, as poor sleep quality can exacerbate symptoms of depression, which can then lead to even more sleep problems.
Sleep & Anxiety
Anxiety is another common mental health problem, and is characterized by feelings of fear, worry, and apprehension. Anxiety can be caused or worsened by sleep difficulties. People who suffer from anxiety often have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experience nightmares or night terrors. Lack of sleep can increase feelings of anxiety, making it harder for people to cope with stress and anxiety-provoking situations. Poor sleep quality can also increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. In addition, sleep deprivation can cause physical symptoms that may increase anxiety including headaches, muscle tension, and digestive problems.
- Sleep & the Body’s Stress Response: Sleep is essential for the body to regulate its stress response. When we experience stress, our body releases stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help us to respond to stress and can cause us to feel alert and focused. However, if the body is not given enough time to rest and recover, these stress hormones can build up in the body, causing us to feel anxious and on edge.
- Sleep & Anxiety Symptoms: Lack of sleep can also cause anxiety symptoms to worsen. For example, people who suffer from anxiety may experience more intense and frequent feelings of fear or worry when they are sleep deprived. They may also find it more challenging to concentrate or feel irritable and on edge.
Licensed Professional Counselor Rashada Smith says, “Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on anxiety levels. Sleep is essential for the body to regulate its stress response, and sleep deprivation can cause stress hormones to build up in the body, leading to increased anxiety.”
Sleep & Mood Disorders
Mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, are often associated with sleep problems. People who suffer from bipolar disorder often experience periods of mania or hypomania, which can cause them to have less need for sleep. However, this can lead to a crash in mood, which can cause depression and other mental health problems.
Sleep & Cognitive Function
Sleep is essential for cognitive function, and lack of sleep can lead to problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making. According to Dr. Ashley Garrett, PhD, “When we sleep, our brain consolidates memories and processes information, which helps us to learn and retain new information. Lack of sleep can also make it harder for us to focus on tasks and make sound decisions, which can impact our daily lives and cause problems in our relationships and work.”
Resources For Sleep Improvement
- Book: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD
- Book: Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson
- Article: Sleep Matters [James Kirk Bernard Foundation] by Alison Brown, MSc.
- Blog: The Better Sleep Council
- Article: How Sleep Affects Your Mental Health (+ Take Our Sleep Quiz) [Garrett Counseling]
In conclusion, sleep plays a critical role in maintaining our mental health. Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can lead to a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Getting enough sleep each night is essential for our brain to function correctly, regulate our emotions, and maintain cognitive function. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, it is essential to seek help from a healthcare professional who can help you develop a plan to improve your sleep and support your mental wellness. Our counselors can provide you with support as you seek to improve your sleep quality. Contact us at (256) 239-5662 or online to schedule an appointment.