How Does Insomnia Affect Mental Health?

September 23, 2022
How does sleep affect mental health
Insomnia Treatment
How Does Insomnia Affect Mental Health?

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many Americans were struggling with sleep disturbance. But the pandemic worsened the situation when it limited our social interactions and isolated us from friends and colleagues. According to a 2021 study, one in three people had clinical signs of sleep deprivation, with more than 20 percent meeting the diagnostic criteria for insomnia disorder. The study also indicated a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and mental health.

However, Americans are not the only victims. Studies show the global prevalence of chronic insomnia is 33 percent. Even individuals without chronic insomnia struggle to sleep. The CDC reports that many adults do not get the recommended hours of sleep per night.

But how does sleep affect mental health and well-being?

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Sleep and Mental Health

With a good night’s sleep, you wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. On the same note, you feel grumpy and foggy when sleep-deprived. Not only is sleep critical to your physiology, but also to your mental health. There’s extensive evidence that lack of sleep triggers negative emotional responses to stressors and suppresses positive emotions.

Although the mechanisms underlying the correlation between sleep and mental health still require more research, it has been demonstrated that sleep plays a significant role in body functions. It helps regulate emotions and behavior and influences the processing of daily activities.

For instance, sleep is necessary for maintaining good cognitive functions, including learning, memory, and attention. Individuals deprived of sleep find it difficult to cope with stress and perceive their environment accurately.

The relationship between mental health and sleep is two-way. Psychological effects of sleep deprivation, like depression, can worsen insomnia, but lack of sleep can also precipitate mental health disorders. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to pinpoint the cause of the other. Because of this complex relationship, whenever you develop sleep difficulties and concomitant mental health issues, seek professional help.

Lack of Sleep: Effects on Mental Health

So, how does lack of sleep affect mental health? While it is well known that sleep deprivation is a symptom of psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety, recent studies show that insomnia can trigger and perpetuate mental health conditions. Without enough sleep, a person is at a higher risk of developing the following mental health issues:

  • Depression. According to a review of various studies, individuals with insomnia have a two-fold risk of developing depressive disorder compared to the general population. Researchers suggest that managing sleep deprivation is a potential strategy for preventing depression.
How does lack of sleep affect mental health
  • Anxiety. Children and teens with sleep disturbances are at a greater risk of developing a generalized anxiety disorder. But even adults with untreated, prolonged sleep deprivation can develop anxiety. Coping with this condition is more complicated when the person has acute insomnia.
  • Bipolar disorder. Sleep disturbances, including irregular sleep-wake cycles, insomnia, and nightmares, commonly occur with bipolar mood disorders. They exacerbate mania and hypomania symptoms, worsening the disease. Treatment outcomes partially depend on the presence or absence of sleep problems.

Sleep deprivation can also affect the development and progression of other psychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating disorders.

Notably, healthy people experience heightened distress and anxiety levels following episodes of poor sleep. Those with psychiatric problems are more prone to developing sleep disorders, worsening their psychological symptoms. This forms a vicious cycle, with an increased risk of suicide. Fortunately, sleep hygiene strategies can help improve the quality and quantity of sleep you receive and break this trap.

Insomnia is often linked with mental health problems. Prevent the development of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder with the help of Mango Clinic.

How Much Sleep Do You Need to Maintain Good Mental Health?

Sleep requirements partially depend on one’s age. Generally, children and teenagers require more hours of sleep than adults for optimum development and physical well-being. Although people of the same age group might have different sleep needs, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults sleep at least 7 hours daily.

Most adults need about 7-9 hours of regular sleep, while teens should spend 8-10 hours sleeping to promote optimal health and mental functioning. The sleep requirements might be slightly lower for individuals above 65 years. While the hours of sleep a person gets are important, sleep quality should not be understated.

The body’s natural inclination to feel more alert at particular times of the day and more tired at some hours, chronotype, is a significant determinant of individual differences in sleep needs. Some people are morning larks, waking up very early, while others are night owls who find it difficult to sleep at night.

That said, the sleep requirements of most people fall between the morning larks and night owls. It might be impossible for individuals with a typical 9.00 am – 5.00 pm work schedule to get the recommended hours of sleep if they are night owls. The amount of sleep a person needs to perform optimally and maintain good mental health depends on age, genetics, and environmental factors.

Sleep deprivation and mental health

Seek Help

Developing proper sleep hygiene practices is essential in staying healthy and enhancing productivity. Even so, good sleep is not a quick fix for mental health conditions. Seeking professional help from a doctor or counselor who understands the bidirectional relationship between lack of sleep and mental health is necessary to prevent complications. Contact Mango Clinic today for a personalized treatment plan for insomnia or underlying mental conditions.


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