How Poor Sleep Affects Your Mental Health

There is clear evidence that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on emotion and performance.

The results of one study (Yoo, Gujjar et al (2007). A deficit in the ability to form new human memories without sleep. Nature Neuroscience, 10(3), 385-392) indicate that a night of restful sleep may ‘reset’ brain reactivity in order to prepare for emotional challenges the next day.

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Sleep has an important restorative function in ‘recharging’ the brain at the end of each day, just like we need to charge a mobile phone battery after prolonged use. Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle allows the natural rhythm of the body to be reset every day and therefore optimises brain functioning.

Ongoing poor sleep can be a huge risk factor for the development of major depressive disorder. The risk of feeling depressed and/or anxious (as well as worsening existing anxiety and depression) increases with the severity of insomnia, and so it is important to recognise and sort out sleep problems as soon as they are identified.

The effects of a lack of sleep

Missed sleep can lead to psychological and physical ill health in many ways.

Psychological symptoms and effects include:

Low mood
Anxiety
Irritability
Erratic behaviour
Poor cognitive functioning and performance (e.g. forgetfulness, making mistakes and slower thinking than normal)
Psychotic episodes
Physical symptoms and effects include:
Physical symptoms of anxiety
Tiredness
Elevation in blood pressure and stress hormones
Negative effects on cardiovascular health (increased risk of strokes and heart attacks)
Immune damage which can lead to many physical problems