Can Sleep Deprivation Affect Mental Health?


Our bodies need to sleep. In fact, even as adults, we need seven to nine hours of sleep, so if you’re not getting this much sleep each night, don’t think it’s not going to affect your life. Lots of studies have been done regarding the effects of lack of sleep on your body and mind, and they all point to the same conclusion: sleep is indeed crucial for people to live a happy and healthy life. In fact, many of those same studies have also proven that missing just one night of sleep can have a profound effect on the way you think, feel, and interact with others.

Most people already know how lack of sleep affects people physically, but what about how it affects people emotionally? The truth is that lack of sleep has a huge impact on people’s mental health, and below are some of the most significant ways it does this.

It Affects the Way Your Brain Works

Just 24 hours without sleep can cause symptoms such as mood swings, poor judgment, lack of coordination, memory loss, the inability to focus, mental fatigue, and even hallucinations and blackouts in the worst-case scenarios. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that someone who has gone a full day without sleep has the same cognitive impairment as someone who has a blood alcohol level of 0.10%. 

These facts alone should make you want to get enough sleep every night because if these symptoms – some of which are pretty severe – are the result of missing just one night of sleep, you can imagine what symptoms you’d experience if you lose sleep for longer periods of time.

It Increases Your Odds of Getting Depression and Anxiety

This is one of the most disturbing results of not getting enough sleep. When you have insomnia, you are 10 times more likely to suffer with depression and 17 times more likely to suffer with anxiety. In fact, if you regularly get less sleep than you should or you’re not sleeping at all, you can get some of the same symptoms as a person who has been diagnosed as being clinically depressed, including:

  • More irritability
  • Less motivation
  • Feeling sad and lonely
  • Being frustrated more often
  • Feeling helpless
  • More trouble concentrating

If you have chronic insomnia, these reasons should be enough to convince you to get help for the condition. If you’re not getting the best sleep you can most nights, the time to do something about it is now. Otherwise, your risks of suffering with these ailments and others are greatly increased.

It Can Result in More Serious Psychiatric Disorders

Insomnia can have even more drastic effects on both your body and your psyche. In fact, studies have proven that there is a good chance of more serious psychiatric disorders if you continuously miss out on the sleep that you need to function right. This includes bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In bipolar patients, more than 70% can experience insomnia when they’re experiencing a manic episode, even though up to nearly 80% of them sleep excessively during their bipolar depression.

Also, in bipolar patients, lack of sleep can actually worsen right before a manic or depressive episode, and it can directly trigger a manic episode. When it comes to relapse and overall mood, sleep problems will make these worse in a bipolar patient. In other words, many psychiatric disorders can be caused by insomnia or even make the disorders a whole lot worse, so there is a direct correlation between some mental disorders and lack of sleep or other sleep problems.

It Can Cause Other Types of Mental Problems

Because your body and mind need sleep to function properly, it can cause everything from mild anxiety to a host of other mental problems and disorders, including:

  • Panic attacks
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • All types of phobias
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of doom
  • ADHD

In fact, in children who are diagnosed with ADHD, one of the symptoms is the inability to get a good night’s sleep, so it is sometimes difficult to tell if the insomnia is causing the ADHD or if it is the other way around. Unfortunately, many children who are not diagnosed with ADHD can still have many of the symptoms as children who are diagnosed with it, but in both cases, the ADHD-insomnia link is one that is being studied and which most experts believe is real.

What to Do If You Have Insomnia

Fortunately, there are things you can do if you have insomnia, and not all of them involve medications or prescriptions. If you are experiencing insomnia even occasionally, you’ll need to find a way to start getting better sleep each night, and below are some ways you can do this:

  • Meditation and other relaxation techniques. There are hundreds of books and CDs on meditation, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money to learn how to do it right. Just find a comfortable, quiet spot, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Clear your head of any clutter, and breathe slowly for three to five minutes. Eventually, you’ll want to increase this time to about 20 minutes to get the best effect. You will find here a detailed guide on meditation.

  • Initiate some lifestyle changes. This can include eliminating caffeine and alcohol several hours before you go to bed, participating in reading or another quiet activity for an hour before you go to bed, exercising regularly, using your bed only for sleeping and having sex, going to bed at the same time each night, and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet. These lifestyle changes are not necessarily difficult to do, but they can make a big difference in getting rid of insomnia so that you can sleep better and avoid certain problems.


Lack of sleep is associated with both physical and psychological problems, so the sooner you address your insomnia, the sooner you can turn your life around and start to function better and feel better. Insomnia is always serious, so talking to your doctor is a good idea because working together, the two of you should be able to come up with a viable solution.