Why Sleep is So Important to Your Mental Health

Understand how sleep deprivation can impair your mind and body

Young woman suffering from mental illness due to sleep deprivation

It’s no surprise that the mind and body function best when balanced. What might surprise you is that a critical part of maintaining this balance is allowing your body and mind to refresh during sleep. Unfortunately, many people do not or cannot get the quantity or quality of sleep they need. When this happens, your mind and body respond by malfunctioning. Therefore, sleep quality has a direct correlation to physical and mental health.

The effects of sleep deprivation on your mental health

When your body fails to get the amount of sleep needed to recover balance, sleep deprivation occurs. Your body enters a physical state of stress. On a more scientific level, your body releases chemicals known as cortisol and glucocorticoids during sleep deprivation, and the combination of these two chemicals wreaks havoc on your body.

More specifically, they disturb your body’s ability to process glucose efficiently, disrupt your appetite-controlling hormones, increases insulin resistance, and mess with reproductive hormones such as testosterone.

When this happens, your mind and body respond by malfunctioning.

Sleep and your emotions

Woman with insomnia lying awake at night

When your mind experiences sleep deprivation, your mood and emotional balance suffer. Have you ever noticed that when you are exhausted, you tend to seem more sensitive? Maybe your temper flares or things that you normally wouldn’t pay attention to start to bother you?

Sleep is vital to maintaining balance in the amygdala – the part of your brain that controls your emotions. An imbalance in your amygdala results in heightened activation of emotional responses, inflated pleasure responses, and increased reward responses. At the same time, the expectation of reward is much higher and it’s combined with a decline in the ability to think through negative consequences, increasing your desire to act impulsively.

Over time, the cumulative impact of sleep deprivation results in a mind that remains in a constant state of stress. Your ability to think clearly and control your emotions are impaired. 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. Lack of sleep can also have physical effects on your body, such as aging and hair loss.

Over time, the cumulative impact of sleep deprivation results in a mind that remains in a constant state of stress.

the devastating path of sleep deprivation

With heightened stress, comes heightened anxiety which can make you hypersensitive to all sorts of physical, mental, and emotional stimuli. For anyone diagnosed with mental health disorders before sleep deprivation, the additional stress can increase the severity.

For example, people who struggle with body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as compulsive hair pulling or skin picking, typically report their first symptoms in early adolescence. While a person can learn to manage the behaviors, they last a lifetime. An essential part of treatment is the ability to recognize triggers of the behavior and make a conscious choice to choose another behavior.

Research suggests that people with BFRB’s experience an increase in their behaviors when they are stressed or anxious. Without sleep to maintain balance, increased physical and emotional sensitivity and decreased critical thinking can trigger an exaggerated emotional reaction. The exaggerated emotional response can trigger the desire for a physical sensation, such as a BFRB that can soothe the exaggerated emotion. Without critical thinking to interrupt the impulse, the person resorts to the harmful action.

For anyone diagnosed with mental health disorders before sleep deprivation, the additional stress can increase the severity.

Give your body time to recharge

Your body and mind need time to recharge and recover daily to remain healthy and to get well when unhealthy. Quality sleep is as vital for the body and mind as air and is worth every effort to achieve.

If you are experiencing trouble sleeping or are starting to feel the impacts of sleep deprivation, be sure to consult a doctor. Better sleep can improve your life in more ways than you may think.


Source

During, E. H., & Kawai, M. (2017). The Functions of Sleep and the Effects of Sleep Deprivation. In Sleep and Neurologic Disease (pp. 55-72).