We’ve all experienced that feeling of waking up on the wrong side of the bed after a bad night’s sleep and walking through the day tired, moody and volatile. This is because sleep is extremely important both for your mood and emotional regulation as well as your overall mental health.
Sleep and mental health have what we call a bidirectional relationship – which means that changes in sleep can affect your mental health and vice versa. Research shows that poor sleep increases your risk of developing mood-/anxiety-related disorders while almost all mood-/anxiety-related disorders are associated with some form of sleep disturbance. But even if you do not have a diagnosed mood-/anxiety-related disorder, poor sleep can still increase symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Why is sleep important for mental health?
- Emotional resilience:
Adequate sleep is one of the key cornerstones of emotional resilience. When we are well-rested, our brains are better equipped to regulate emotions and respond to stress. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can heighten emotional reactivity, making daily challenges seem more daunting than they are.
- Cognitive function:
Sleep is intricately linked to cognitive processes such as memory, attention and problem-solving. A good night’s sleep enhances our ability to concentrate and learn new information, advancing mental sharpness and creativity. Chronic sleep deprivation, conversely, has been linked to cognitive impairments and an increased risk of mental health disorders.
- Mood/mental health disorders:
The relationship between sleep and mood is bidirectional. Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, but insufficient sleep can also contribute to the development and exacerbation of these disorder.
- Stress Reduction:
Sleep is a natural stress regulator. During deep sleep, the body undergoes processes that help to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. This restoration is vital for mental well-being, as chronic stress has been implicated in the onset of various mental health disorders.
Mental health issues are currently one of the leading health concerns globally and a topic that was brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prioritizing sleep therefore needs to be a foundational step towards nurturing mental well-being. Overall, the research is clear: if you want to feel your best, consistent sufficient, good quality sleep is essential.