Mental Health and Sleep

By Alesandra Woolley

Apr 23rd, 2021

In the same way that a car requires a fuel source like gas to operate properly, so too does the brain. In the case of our brains, sleep is the fuel.

Without proper sleep, our minds begin to slow and are unable to operate at their full potential. If sleep deprivation becomes a chronic problem, the toll on your mental health can become even more severe. 

In this guide, we’ll share all of our resources that take a deep dive into the complex relationship between sleep and mental health, including how these two aspects of health are inversely related, the consequences of sleep deprivation on the mind, and the link between sleep disorders and mental health disorders.

The Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep and mental health have a reciprocal relationship; lack of sleep impacts mental health, and vice versa. When mental health is suffering, sleep issues arise. If you’re experiencing poor sleep or having trouble sleeping in general, it damages your mental health. 

Sleep is the mind’s time to rest and recharge. When we get proper sleep, memories, emotions, and new information are processed and filed away for our minds to retrieve later on. Sleep is also the time emotional processing takes place. 

If you’re sleep deprived, it will start to take a toll on your mental health in the form of emotional instability, irritability, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and increased stress all because you didn’t give your brain and body time to recharge.

Learn more about the connection between our sleep and mental health in our resources below. 


Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that plays a big role in our “fight or flight” response. It’s important for cortisol levels to be properly balanced, but when we don’t get enough sleep, too much cortisol is produced. 

Excess cortisol levels puts our body in a constant state of stress, and makes relaxing difficult. This is the reason individuals under a lot of stress struggle with insomnia—the increased amounts of cortisol keep them awake!

We know stress has a number of detrimental effects on the body, including impaired thinking, weight gain, and the inability to control emotions. The worst part is, sleep deprivation and stress contribute to a negative feedback loop that can be difficult to break and often results in mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders.

See our resources below to learn about the connection between sleep and stress, along with some techniques for reducing stress for better sleep.

Trauma and Grief

Sleep disturbances are extremely common in those who experience trauma and grief. Often lasting for months, the sleep loss people experience while grieving and/or after a traumatic event can be detrimental to their well-being. 

It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone in your challenges, and there’s a sleep solution that can be found for everyone. Learn more about the sleep problems people face while dealing with trauma/grief and how to cope in our resources below.

Mental Health Disorders

Traditionally, clinicians believed sleep disorders were a symptom of mental illness. Now, current research suggests sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders. 

But it’s not that simple. The link between sleep health and mental health is stronger and more complicated than ever. It’s important to note that the relationship between these two ailments varies in severity and complexity across different disorders.

One mental illness may develop in part due to a specific sleep disorder, but it can also be a symptom of the same mental illness — creating a positive feedback loop. Some mental issues may show no causal relationships with sleep at all. And some sleep disorders have no relationship with mental disorders whatsoever.

Some mental disorders stem from sleep health itself too. Orthosomnia, or the obsession with “a perfectionistic quest for the ideal sleep in order to optimize daytime function,” as the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine terms it, is a new phenomenon. It is a psychological reaction to the ability to track your sleep, respond to the data, and attempt to attain that perfect 7- 9 hours of sleep that is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.

Learn more about the connections between sleep and mental health disorders in our resources below.