The CDC reports that 34.8% percent of adults regularly get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Even though it’s tempting to burn the midnight oil when you’re overwhelmed by a seemingly endless to-do list, skimping on sleep can leave you feeling irritable and less able to cope with the challenges of everyday life. Sleep is not an indulgence you can push aside in favor of other activities—it’s a vital form of self-care.
7 Ways Sleep Affects Your Mental Health
When you are living with a serious mental health disorder, prioritizing time for sufficient sleep is just as important to your treatment plan as therapy and medication. Let’s look at some of the ways sleep can influence your mental health.
- Emotional Regulation
During the various stages of sleep, your brain processes and consolidates emotional experiences. When you don’t get enough sleep, this can lead to heightened emotional reactivity, increased irritability, and a diminished ability to cope with difficult situations. A good night’s sleep isn’t just about getting through the day; it’s about giving your mind the time it needs to process your emotions and respond to them in a balanced manner.
- Mood Regulation
If you’ve ever unexpectedly snapped at a friend or family member because you were exhausted after a long day, you’ve experienced firsthand the connection between sleep and mood. Over time, disruptions in sleep patterns can contribute to several different types of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. Conversely, consistent and restful sleep promotes mental and emotional well-being.
- Neurotransmitter Balance
Sleep helps your body maintain the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in your brain. These chemical messengers, such as serotonin and dopamine, play crucial roles in regulating mood, pleasure, and overall mental well-being. Consistent sleep supports the production and regulation of neurotransmitters, while sleep disturbances can lead to imbalances that contribute to mood disorders and other mental health challenges.
- Cognitive Function
Sleep is your brain’s way of hitting the refresh button on your cognitive functions. It’s during sleep that your memories are consolidated, information is processed, and learning is enhanced. When you’re well-rested, your mind is more alert, focused, and capable of tackling complex tasks. In comparison, chronic sleep deprivation can impair memory, hinder decision-making, and compromise your overall cognitive performance—all of which negatively affect your ability to navigate the demands of daily life.
- Stress Reduction
Adequate sleep helps regulate your body’s stress response, preventing the accumulation of stress hormones like cortisol in a way that is similar to what is seen with meditation. This nightly restoration process is integral to building your resilience against the cumulative effects of stress and contributes to an overall sense of well-being.
- Brain Detoxification
While you sleep, the brain undergoes a detoxification process that is vital for its health and functioning. The glymphatic system, which is more active during sleep, flushes out waste products that accumulate during waking hours. This nightly detox process is essential for preventing the buildup of toxins that could impair cognitive function and contribute to neurological issues.
- Hormonal Balance
Sleep influences hormonal balance, impacting stress hormones like cortisol as well as hunger-regulating hormones like ghrelin and leptin. Disruptions in sleep can lead to a dysregulation in hormone levels that contributes to mood disorders, increased stress sensitivity, or disruptions in appetite and weight regulation.
Get the Rest Your Body Needs
Adults generally require seven to nine hours of sleep per night for optimal health and well-being. However, individual sleep needs can be influenced by factors such as lifestyle, stress levels, and overall health.
Getting the rest your body needs is a great mental health goal. This involves not only aiming for the recommended quantity of sleep but also recognizing the importance of consistent sleep patterns. Sleep hygiene habits such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and adopting healthy bedtime routines are key strategies for improving sleep quality. Minimizing exposure to screens before bedtime, managing stress through relaxation techniques, and being mindful of your dietary choices in the evening can also contribute to a more restful slumber.
Sleeping pills, while sometimes used to treat short-term bouts of insomnia, are not a long-term solution to poor sleep quality. Prolonged use can lead to dependency or abuse, and they can often interact with other medications to increase the risk of dangerous side effects.
We’re Here to Help
If you’re having a hard time sleeping—and a lack of rest is making your mental health issues more difficult to handle—you’re not alone. Located in Bettendorf, Iowa, Eagle View Behavioral Health helps teens and adults with anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts find effective ways to manage their mental health. Our clinical team attends to each client’s unique needs, offering comprehensive support, therapy, and medication with the goal of moving through a series of less intensive treatment levels and transitioning back to independent living as their condition improves. Contact us today to learn more.