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5 Ways Sleep Deprivation Negatively Impacts Mental Health


Sleep is an important process which enables our bodies to go about repairing themselves, both mentally and physically, by cleansing the body of waste built up during the day. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that sleep and health are closely related; poor sleep increases the risk of poor health and poor health can make it harder to sleep.

“Sleep is a necessity just like breathing, drinking or eating – we cannot live without it.”

Sleep is an incredibly complex process and one which is still for the most part a mystery to scientists. They do know that sleep clears toxins from our bodies and if this process isn’t given the time it needs to do its job, it can impact our bodies in many damaging ways.


“An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicated to live only to their early 60’s without medical intervention.”

Today I’m looking at how a lack of sufficient sleep can negatively impact mental health and giving some quick tips on how we can improve the quality of our sleep.

So how does a lack of sleep impact our mental health?

1. Reduces the Ability to Deal with Emotional Stress


Sleep plays an important role in many processes, one of which is emotional regulation. Research shows that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on emotion which causes us to be more emotionally reactive; a lack of sleep increases activity in the emotional rapid response centre of the brain (amygdala), an area which controls many of our immediate emotional reactions. This increased activity then causes more intense reactions to situations, which would explain why we’re shorter tempered and irritable when tired. Research indicates that a night of restful sleep may ‘reset’ brain activity in order to prepare for emotional challenges the next day.

2. Negatively Impacts Relationships

It’s no surprise then that if our amygdalae are hyperactive and causing us to react poorly to situations, that sleep deprivation has an effect on our personal relationships. The distress caused to the amygdala can lead us to either overreact or to not notice somebody else’s emotions at all, leading to potential conflict with our partners, friends, family and co-workers.

Poor relationships can lead to feelings of social withdrawal and loneliness, which in turn can lead to mental health conditions.

3. Aggravates Anxiety and Depression

Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it’s not surprising that chronic sleep debt may lead to long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Poor sleep can make us less receptive to positive emotions which may increase the likelihood of developing depression. A history if insomnia has been shown to increase the risk of developing depression, and when sufferers of anxiety or depression were surveyed to calculate their sleeping habits it was found most of them slept for less than 6 hours a night.

Research proves that insomnia doubles the chances of developing depression, and it has been found that treatment for insomnia reduces depression; research which highlights the importance of the link between mental health and sleep.

4. Triggers Bipolar Disorder

Studies have found that 25-65% of people with bipolar disorder who experienced a manic episode had disturbance in their sleep/wake cycle. The circadian rhythm, the body’s natural clock, regulates the sleep/wake cycle based on exposure to light i.e. day and night. Now that light levels can be manipulated by artificial light such as electronic devices, our natural cycle can be easily disrupted. It is suggested that the disruption of a person’s circadian rhythm can act as a trigger for this disorder.

5. Decreases Energy Levels


The Great British Sleep Survey found that 95% of respondents with insomnia reported low energy levels, more than twice the figure of good sleepers.

Low energy decreases an individual’s capacity for exercise; an effective way of reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Heightened levels of stress, anxiety and depression negatively impact mental wellbeing as they affect a person’s ability to drop off easily. The lack of sleep leads to low energy, and so the cycle continues.


So how can we improve the quality of our sleep?


Primarily sleep allows the brain to recover and regenerate, making it extremely important for us to continuously get a good night’s sleep.


Read the next blog for 4 quick tips to easily improve sleep quality.

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