We all know how a really bad night’s sleep feels.

We wake up with a heavy head, we are irritable, we can’t concentrate, we find it difficult to take joy in anything and the last thing we want to do is see or talk to anyone – let alone go outside.

Sound familiar right? Sounds a little bit like depression. That’s because sleep-deprivation and depression share a lot of similar characteristics. And the connections don’t end there.

There is a strong, and well studied, link between poor sleep and poor mental health. Those who sleep badly are more likely to suffer from issues such as depression and anxiety, and those with depression and anxiety are less likely to sleep. An unfortunate cycle.

Chronic poor sleep has even been connected to a higher rate of death by suicide. Yikes!

Below we take a look at the reasons sleep and mental health are connected and a few of the ways better sleep can improve our mental outlook.

Why does sleep impact mental health?

Science has come a long way in understanding the link between sleep and mental health but the exact intricacies of why there is such a link are still being debated upon.

What we do know is that a whole host of vitally important processes take place while we sleep, many involving the regulation of neurotransmitters and stress hormones levels in our system.

When we suffer from broken sleep the regulation of these levels, among other things, is disrupted, causing imbalances and impairing our thinking and emotional regulation.

It’s the impact of these disruptions and that can either cause or amplify the effect of psychiatric disorders.

So powerful is the link between sleep and mental health disorders that it has been claimed those who suffer from insomnia are five times more likely to suffer from depression. And twenty times more likely to develop anxiety issues.

For more information on the importance of a good night’s rest find out what the latest up-to date research has to say on the issue.

For more information on the importance of a good night’s rest find out what the latest up-to date research has to say on the issue.

Improved control over emotions

The amygdala is the known as the emotional centre of the brain. The more reactive it is the more our emotions fluctuate. How it responds to stimulus is controlled by a link to the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

In a recent study, brain scans conducted on well-rested individuals showed the connections between the prefrontal cortex and amygdala working smoothly. When the same scans were undertaken on sleep-deprived participants, it was found the the connections often get interrupted.

So strong was this impact that it was found the amygdala is up to 60% more reactive when an individual has had a bad night’s sleep. Hence the upturn in irritability and the increased likelihood of mood swings.

Greater positive thinking

There is a link between unbroken sleep and being able to maintain a positive emotional balance in our daily lives.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that waking up just once or twice throughout the night can have a detrimental impact on an individual’s positive outlook the following day, compared to someone who slept without interruption.

A complementary study by the University of Binghamton revealed that subjects who slept less and who went to bed later in the evening were more likely to be overwhelmed with “repetitive negative thoughts” than those who kept more regular sleeping patterns.

It seems a night half slept results in a glass half full.

Increased alertness

Feeling drowsy and low on energy is one of the main symptoms of depression and one of the most common feelings when sleep-deprived.

The hormone that controls our alertness levels is adenosine. During the course of a normal day, the neurons in our brain produce adenosine as they go about working. As adenosine is created in the brain, it binds to adenosine receptors. This binding causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. When we sleep the adenosine is flushed by our body so that we can awake feel alert and ready to conquer the following day.

That’s why when we have had a really good night’s sleep we almost bound out of bed.

However, if we have had a broken night’s sleep we wake with adenosine still in our system, leading us to feel drowsy before we have even started the day’s activities. Not fair eh!

Useful apps

Technology is nearly touching every aspect of our lives, and sleep is no different. In this section, some useful apps that could aid you in sleep are presented.

Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle is a clever alarm clock app that tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up during light sleep, making you feel like waking up naturally without any alarm clock. You can refer to this page to learn more about how the app works.

Sleep Time

Sleep Time is another interesting app that provides insights into your sleep patterns by tracking your level of movement throughout the night.


If you use an Apple Watch, iPhone, or iPad, this app allows you to track your sleep from those devices. It also provides unique healthkit integration and heart rate analysis.

Sleep Better

This app tracks your sleep cycle, improves your bedtime habits, and helps you in waking up better. It uses a sleep tracker and a sleep timer to help you gain better sleep.

In conclusion

Good sleep is essential both for our physical and mental health. When we rest our body and mind goes to work repairing themselves from the hardships we have put them through during the course of the day.

Many of these processes require long periods of deep and unbroken sleep to function properly, when we don’t get enough sleep or our sleep is broken we cause disruptions and create imbalances.

Do yourself and your mental health a favour, treat your bedtime with as much respect as you can. Take sleep seriously because the impact it can have on almost every facet of your life is serious. You can also get the help of technology by using some apps that can aid you in gaining better sleep.

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