How Sleep Impacts Mental Health

By Lisa Smalls

Sleep impacts every aspect of our health—the physical, emotional, and mental. In fact, rest is the glue that holds us together. It’s during sleep that our body repairs itself and our mind processes memories. Yet, if we miss out on sleep, both our bodies and minds pay the price.


When you don’t get enough sleep so many things happen to your brain. It slows down and you become lethargic. Your memory suffers. You can’t learn new things as easily as you should. You feel less productive. You wake up in a bad mood.


But lack of sleep goes further than having a short fuse, forgetful memory, and lack of energy. It can even exacerbate many mental disorders.



We know that failing to get enough sleep on a daily basis can also worsen mental illness like depression and anxiety. It’s more difficult to cope with life’s ups and downs when you’re tired.

For example, according to research by the National Sleep Foundation, patients with untreated insomnia are between two and 10 times more likely to experience recurring bouts of depression. Insomnia may also be a risk factor for developing anxiety disorders and substance abuse.

On the other hand, getting enough sleep improves one’s ability to battle stress.


It’s scary to think a restless night can put you at risk for something as serious as depression, but getting enough sleep will enable you to cope with your worries more productively.


Good sleep, healthy mind.


Physical and mental healing happens when we sleep, but how do we achieve good sleep?

Well, you have to prepare for it:

●      Change your lifestyle. No caffeine, nicotine or video screens three hours before bed.

●      Exercise regularly. It helps you fall asleep faster.


●      Meditate, do guided imagery or deep breathing exercises to relieve anxiety.

●      Give yourself a regular bedtime and wake-up time.

●      Use your bedroom for sex or sleeping only.

●      Create a comfortable, relaxing space for sleep.


What does a comfortable and relaxing sleep space feel like? Maybe a swan dive into something warm and fluffy, yet supportive. Sounds like the perfect bed. In fact, your sleep environment has the most direct impact on sleep quality. Make sure you have the right tools to get your best night’s sleep.


Think of sleep like a fishing line and your mental health as the fish. With enough sleep, you can cast your line as far as you need to in order to catch solutions to problems, connect with others and stimulate creativity.

Losing an hour is like having someone on the other end grabbing your line and making it shorter and shorter.  Then you’re casting with a line that can’t reach the fish. You fail. And you find it harder to think, communicate and cope.


Surprise. The World Health Organization defines mental health as the exact opposite: feeling well enough to realize your potential, cope with the “normal stresses of life” and live productively.

Sleeping well can feel like a magic solution, but it’s good science and worth the effort.