The Link Between Sleep Disorders and Mental Health

The Link Between Sleep Disorders and Mental Health

“You woke up on the wrong side of the bed” is often used to describe someone in a bad mood. It's a relatable experience; insufficient sleep can make you more irritable and hinder your ability to navigate the day easily. Lack of sleep can also contribute to a range of negative emotions. 

Researchers have found links between sleep and several mental conditions. Understanding the connection sheds light on the conditions that can result from inadequate sleep.



Depending on your sleep stage, your brain experiences different energy levels when you are asleep. During these sleep stages, the amount of brain activity fluctuates. Sleep has two main stages, NREM or non-rapid eye movement and REM, rapid eye movement. In NREM, you have low brain activity with small bursts of energy. REM, on the other hand, has rapid brain activity, and it is related to more intense dreaming. 

Sleep and Mental Health


Brain activity during sleep is essential for cognitive functions like learning and thinking. These influence both your emotional and mental health. This is because sleep is necessary to consolidate positive emotional content by replaying and selecting your daily memories. 

When you do not get enough REM sleep, your brain cannot process emotional information correctly. This affects your emotional well-being, which directly impacts your mental stability. This results in mental disorders with common negative thoughts and behaviors. 

Mental Conditions and Sleep

  • Depression

Of the 300 million people who have depression worldwide, 75% report dealing with insomnia as well. People with depression also report having excessive daytime sleepiness from lack of adequate sleep or hypersomnia, sleeping too much. 

People used to think that depression led to a lack of sleep, but recent studies reveal more. It is hard to pinpoint the cause and effect exactly, which has led scientists to conclude that the two are mutually reinforcing. 

Depression will lead to a lack of sleep, which enhances the intensity of the negative emotions. This usually leads to a feedback loop that worsens the patient's quality of life and condition. If the patient gets better sleep, the symptoms of depression will likely become less intense. 

  • Anxiety

People with anxiety disorders like PTSD and OCD are likely to have sleep disorders, which usually stem from hyperarousal. Hyperarousal in anxiety disorders develops from the constant fear and worry patients deal with. Hyperarousal is a primary cause of insomnia. Lack of sleep can also result in more worry, leading to more anxiety before bed causing sleeping issues. 

Lack of sleep not only makes anxiety worse but can effectively trigger it. According to research, people at a high risk of developing anxiety are more likely to develop the condition due to lack of sleep. Chronic insomnia has also been linked to developing anxiety.

  • Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorders cause highs and lows that influence the sleep pattern of patients dealing with the condition. These patients typically report that their sleep patterns change in the time leading up to an episode. Evidence also suggests that poor sleep patterns make the episodes much worse.

For more on the link between sleep disorders and mental health, visit Choulet Wellness at our office in Scottsdale, Arizona. Call (480) 448-6571 to book an appointment today.

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