The Relationship Between Sleep and Mental Health

There is a clear connection between healthy sleep and good mental health. During sleep, our brains make new connections, enabling us to learn from the experiences of the previous day. The body also performs a majority of its healing processes during sleep. Your period of nightly rest is also an opportunity for digestive organs and other key systems to take a rest, eliminate waste and repair. As essential as good, regular sleep is to your mental and overall health, sleep deprivation comes with equally significant risks.

Sleep Deprivation

Chronic or frequent sleep deprivation comes with an increased risk of many forms of disease including cancer, metabolic disorders, injury and accidents. Chronic sleep problems are now more common than ever, affecting between 50 and 80% of psychiatric patients. Those suffering from depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation.


Unfortunately, the many economic and social pressures which cause Americans to lose sleep are on the rise. Stress, the increasing influence of electronic media and poor diet are all growing influences leading to poor sleep habits and disorders. As the incidence of sleep deprivation grows, evidence of the link between sleep loss and mental health complications becomes increasingly stronger.

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Sleep

Sleep problems can, and often do, lead to negative changes to our mental health. These changes can include the worsening of current mental health conditions as well as the development of new mental health conditions.

For example, a person suffering from anxiety may develop an obsessive/compulsive complex as a result of inadequate sleep. The risks of specific types of mental conditions developing or worsening are exceedingly complex. Researchers have been unable to draw direct conclusions about who is susceptible to which conditions and why. One certain thing is that poor sleep on a regular basis is a major contributing factor to an increased risk of mental health conditions of all kinds.

Because of the risk and because of the large areas of uncertainty about specific types of risk, it is important to let your doctor know if you are having trouble sleeping.

Sleep and Anxiety

Many experts believe humans have developed a mechanism that makes the line between sleep and wakefulness very fragile. Evolutionary explanations include the need to be able to wake up quickly to respond to danger. If this hypothesis is correct, it would go a long way to explain why anxiety disorders and chronic sleep deprivation so frequently go hand in hand.

It may be that individuals suffering from chronic anxiety reinforce the cycle of anxiety and sleep disruption with every untimely waking event. When we wake up in response to an anxiety spike, our biology may reward us for a behavior that could be interpreted as having improved our chances of survival. This is not adaptive to modern circumstances and it is a compounding condition that requires professional treatment.

Of course, this is just one example of how a sleep disorder and other mental health conditions can reinforce and exacerbate each other. Just as no two people are alike, no two sleep disorders are alike, making personalized care essential.

Getting Help for Sleeplessness

Far too many people consider frequent sleep loss to be a minor inconvenience. In reality, it is dangerous for both medical and behavioral reasons. That’s why it is so important to talk to your doctor about treatment options. Early treatment is the best way to reduce the compounding harms chronic sleep loss can cause.

Ready to Talk to a Mental Health Professional?

Our team of mental health professionals is here to help. We understand that common pressures can make it difficult to enjoy regular, healthy sleep. Get in touch today to learn more.


Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic, a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital provides our community with safe, dignified and integrated care for adult patients experiencing an acute mental health need. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education provided by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact us today for more information. A safe space to heal.