Anxiety Symptoms and Signs
August 1, 2019

How Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

We know you have heard this before, and it cannot be stressed enough; getting enough sleep is extremely important for your well-being and mental health. Most people need around eight hours of sleep a night, although this can vary slightly from person to person. If you find that you are not getting enough sleep, or that the quality of your sleep is poor, it can have a significant impact on your mental health.

Although sleep problems have been seen as a symptom of mental health issues, sleep deprivation can also severely exacerbate or cause symptoms of mental illness. It is a vicious cycle- the less you sleep, the more likely you are to experience symptoms of mental illness, and the more symptoms of mental illness you experience, the harder it becomes to get a good night's sleep.

There are a number of ways in which sleep (or lack thereof) can affect your mental health. For example, sleep deprivation can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Weight Gain

What Causes Sleep Deprivation?

The following are factors that lead to a continuation of poor night's rest.


Stress can have a number of negative effects, depending on the individual. But among them are elevated levels of anxiety and cortisol (also called fight or flight hormone) that can disrupt sleep. Moreover, cortisol may remain in the system long after stressful situations lead to its release, making it difficult for an individual's mind to slow down enough to get them back to sleep.


Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It can lead to fatigue, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, and irritability. Insomnia can be short-term (acute insomnia) or long-term (chronic insomnia).

There are many causes of insomnia, including stress, anxiety, medications, medical conditions, lifestyle choices, and sleep disorders.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

RLS is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move one's legs. This movement may occur during periods of rest or inactivity and is often accompanied by an uncomfortable, tingling or crawling sensation. RLS, or other physical pain, can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to sleep deprivation.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes breathing to stop or become very shallow during sleep. It can disrupt sleep and lead to daytime fatigue. There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea (the most common type) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually due to excess weight or relaxation of the throat muscles. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

How Can I Improve the Quality of Sleep?

  • Avoiding caffeine and screens before bed
  • Establish a regular sleep routine
  • Creating a calm and relaxing environment in your bedroom
  • Using comfortable and breathable sheets
  • Avoiding large meals and drinking alcohol before bed
  • Practicing yoga or meditation before bedtime (Check out our blog, “Yoga For Anxiety and Depression” to learn more!)

  • Depression and Anxiety Therapy

    One approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT has been found to be an effective treatment for insomnia. CBT focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to sleep problems. It can help to establish healthy sleep habits and routines, and teach individuals how to better manage stress and anxiety. However, every person is different, and there are many other types of treatment available as well.

    If you are sleep-deprived and think you could be struggling with anxiety or depression, our providers and Integrated Counseling and Wellness are here to help! Our therapist can help you identify the cause of your sleep problems and provide recommendations for treatment. Great sleep is utterly important for your physical and mental wellbeing, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today! With the right treatment, you can get the quality sleep you need.

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