Have you ever wondered, how lack of sleep can affect your mental health? Insomnia is a common issue affecting roughly 33% of the world’s population, according to recent research. The consequences of a bad night’s sleep, unfortunately, go well beyond feeling grumpy or foggy the next day. Your sleeping habits and mental well-being go hand in hand.
Poor or insufficient sleep intensifies negative emotional responses to day-to-day stressors and decreases an individual’s positive emotions. In this article, we will explore how lack of sleep can affect mental health.
Why is sleep important for our mental health?
Sound sleep plays a prominent role in our good physical health – that’s no secret. Research connects sleep deprivation to unfavorable health consequences, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. As for the relationship between sleep and mental health, that’s a whole different story – and a more complex one!
Think of your brain like a mobile phone battery. Just like the battery, our brains need ‘recharging’ at the end of each day to function properly. That’s why sleep and a regular sleep-wake cycle are necessary. They have an essential restorative function that resets your body’s natural rhythm, thus optimizing brain functioning and enhancing mental health.
How lack of sleep can affect your mental health?
Research suggests that individuals with ongoing sleep problems find themselves in a never-ending loop because these problems bring about numerous changes in their mental health. And while they can be a consequence of many psychiatric conditions, they can also play a pivotal part in developing and maintaining various mental health problems.
In other words, poor or insufficient sleep might trigger the onset of certain psychological conditions, which can further increase the severity of insomnia. So, suppose you’re struggling to fall and/or stay asleep. In that case, this circular relationship between an individual’s sleep patterns and mental well-being should be enough reason to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
Ever had a dilemma, tough decision, or hard choice to make, and somebody advised you to “sleep on it”? As it turns out, there’s actual science behind this! A full night’s rest is critical for our brain to operate at its total capacity, including concentration, memory, and emotional regulation. On the other hand, lack of sleep can lead to something called brain fog or mental fog, a cloudy-headed feeling, confusion, forgetfulness, or lapses of attention. It’s a sign you’ve been ignoring your mental health!
Just consider how a single night of bad night’s sleep makes you feel the following day. It can range from feeling grumpy and cranky to lacking energy and focus. You may overreact if something doesn’t go your way or find you’re less excited if something good happens. Now, think about how ongoing sleeplessness can make you feel. Besides poor cognitive functioning and performance, insufficient sleep may cause low mood, irritability, anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression. It can even lead to the development of some mood disorders.
In addition to moodiness, unusual behavior, such as impulsivity, emotional outbursts, erratic behavior, hyperactivity, and problems interacting with other people, is a common sign of sleep deprivation. As much as you’d probably like to keep your cool, fatigue can result in lower self- control and having a short fuse. So, if you are experiencing frequent and chronic fatigue, that might be indicative of a bigger problem.
Poor sleep quality can affect your mental well-being by diminishing your ability to manage even relatively minor stress. Everyday hassles and minor annoyances can quickly develop into significant sources of frustration. We notice that you’re feeling frazzled by day-to-day, ordinary occurrences, and even thinking about how poor your sleep quality has been lately may begin to stress you out and keep you up at night.
In extreme circumstances, poor sleep habits can cause you to develop temporary psychotic symptoms. According to some studies, you can experience the first symptoms after only 24 hours of being awake. Early effects can include irritability, anxiety, and disconnection from your feelings and thoughts. Severe symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and inability to think clearly start to kick off after 48 hours without sleep.
Effects of sleep on mental health conditions
Sleep has a significant effect on our mental health and wellness. However, it can even contribute to the development of mental health conditions. Lack of sleep can contribute to or elevate symptoms like:
● anxiety disorders,
● bipolar disorders,
● eating disorders,
● and even suicidal ideation.
Studies about sleep deprivation have found that otherwise healthy individuals can experience increased distress levels and anxiety following poor-quality sleep. Hence, people struggling with mental health disorders are even more likely to develop chronic sleep problems that further exacerbate psychiatric symptoms.
Substance use disorders are no exception
Everything, from mood changes to increased stress levels, is a well-known risk factor in the development of addiction. Sleep deprivation can also increase vulnerability to psychological addiction, particularly because negative emotions can lead to compulsions or perceived needs. That’s the difference between physical and psychological addiction. Physical addiction appears when your body cells can only function normally if a certain substance is present. The latter, on the other hand, makes people believe that their enjoyment is directly linked to the substance. In other words, they believe the only way to feel better is to use it. These are some of the key differences to be aware of.
The good news?
Yes, lack of sleep can affect your mental health in a number of negative ways. However, there are always ways to get back on track and enhance your sleep quality and quantity before it becomes a chronic way of life. And guess what? You’ve already taken the first step: learning about the relationship between sleep problems and mental health! Now what’s left is to address your issue by sitting down with your counsellor or therapist about your course ahead.