6 ways lack of sleep can impact your mental health 

Lack of sleep is detrimental to a person
Lack of sleep is detrimental to a person's mental health (Image via Pexels/ Andrea Piacquadio)

Mental health and lack of sleep have been linked together. Most people recognize how vital adequate sleep is for good mental health. Many recognize how lack of sleep is a result of mental illness, but fail to see how it can cause mental health problems.

There is a lack of awareness of the bi-directional relationship between mental well-being and lack of sleep. Mental illnesses make it difficult for a person to get adequate sleep. On the other hand, chronic lack of adequate sleep can result in or worsen problems like anxiety and depression.

During different stages of the sleep cycle, brain activity fluctuates. During rapid eye movement sleep cycles, brain activity is high, which results in vivid dreams. During non-rapid eye movement cycles, brain activity slows down but there are still some quick bursts of energy.

Research has shown that brain activity during sleep increases a person's emotional and mental health. Quality sleep facilitates improved processing of emotional information. Other mental and cognitive benefits of adequate sleep include improved thinking, memory, and learning.


What lack of sleep can do to mental health

Lack of sleep and insomnia are common problems and affect nearly a third of the global population, according to a study. This means that many people are at risk of developing or worsening their mental well-being due to a lack of adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can affect mental health in different ways.

1) Stress

Stress can greatly impact a person's quality of life if it is not managed properly. Without adequate rest, people can find it difficult to process stressors in their lives. Obstacles and setbacks can turn into sources of frustration that add to a person's level of stress.

2) Psychotic Symptoms

While rare, a severe lack of sleep over a long period of time can cause a person to develop temporary psychotic symptoms. Studies indicate that when people do not get to sleep for a period of more than 24 hours, they experience psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions.

3) Behavioral Changes

A chronic lack of sleep can cause people to start experiencing inexplicable changes in their behavior. These people can develop unusual behaviors like hyperactivity, emotional outbursts, and increased impulsivity. They begin to behave erratically and develop a short fuse. They also struggle to interact with those around them.

4) Mood Swings

Without adequate sleep, the emotional center of the brain known as the amygylla does not function properly. This causes people to lose control over their emotions and suffer from mood swings. Their moods begin to fluctuate between irritability, anger, and aggression. A study also shows that sleep deprivation causes a person to experience feelings of anxiety and depression.

5) Cognitive struggles

People require adequate sleep in order to recharge their brains for various cognitive tasks. Lack of sleep causes people to experience confusion and struggles with concentration. It can cause people to struggle with recalling memories and affect their ability to communicate in a clear manner. It can also impact a person's productivity levels, which can affect their professional lives.

6) Mental Health Ilnesses

Mental health and sleep are intertwined and there is a growing body of evidence indicating that lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to various mental illnesses. Although further evidence is required to conclusively prove that statement, there is enough evidence to link sleep and mental illnesses.

Lack of sleep is also associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sleep deficits are also linked to depression, anxiety, and bipolarity.


While the mental health benefits of getting a good night's sleep are now well known, the drawbacks that come with lack of sleep aren't. Lack of sleep is dangerous for a person's well-being. People should take the necessary steps to get enough sleep on a regular basis.

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Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann