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How sleep can affect your mental health

Sleep can have a big impact on your mental health

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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There is a close relationship between mental health and sleep. It was once thought that poor sleep and insomnia was a symptom of other mental health problems. Now it is thought that poor sleep may actually be a cause, as well as a symptom, of certain mental health problems.

How sleep can affect your mental health

If you’re struggling to sleep over a long period of time, this may lead to more challenges to your mental health, or it may make existing mental health challenges worse. Here are some ways that this might happen:

Being tired makes it harder to cope

Everyday life becomes a much greater challenge when you're tired. Over time, this can affect your self-esteem and mental health.

You may become lonely

Feeling more tired may cause you to skip on going out and other social activities, meaning you might see less people. Becoming isolated can lead to mental health problems.

Your mood might be lower

Sleep deprivation (lack of sleep) may impact your mood and energy level. Regular poor sleep could impact your mood negatively in different ways which could increase negative thinking cycles.

How mental health problems can affect your sleep

If you’re going through problems with your mental health, such as stress, depression or anxiety, this can make it harder to sleep.

  • Depression can make it more difficult to cope with daily tasks. This may result in you over-sleeping to avoid these activities, which may make it harder to sleep at night.
  • If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you may be more prone to disturbed sleep or nightmares.
  • Some medication may cause sleep disturbances. It is important to let your doctor know if your medication keeps you awake or makes you too sleepy.

How to address sleep problems

A good place to start is by looking at your sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygeine means a healthy sleep pattern and habits. If you’re regularly struggling to get a good night’s sleep, there are a number of things you can do to improve it.

  • Don’t have any drinks with caffeine in them after 2pm in the afternoon
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol before bed
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
  • Avoid looking at any laptops, phones and other screens for an hour before bed
  • Make sure your bedroom is completely dark

If the above trips don't work, visit the doctor. Many people struggle with sleep problems, and the doctor may be able to help.

Getting help for mental health problems

If you’re feeling low a lot of the time, you should talk to a friend or family member. There is nothing wrong if asking for help, and don’t feel afraid to ask for a little extra support to help you get by. Talk about your problems with a doctor and they will be able to advise on what to do. If you are in distress, call the Samaritans on 116 123.

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Published April 26th2015
Last updated July 9th2018
Tags mental health sleep insomnia
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