Skip to content

Sleep and Its Effect on Mental Health: World Sleep Day

Woman sleeping lying on the bed at home.

Sleep deprivation is a growing problem around the world. In the United States, 35 percent of adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the CDC. The average amount of sleep per night has dropped from 7.9 to 6.8 hours, and lack of sleep costs the U.S. more than $411 billion annually. Those statistics make one thing abundantly clear: Many people do not take sleep seriously. Yet, the effect of sleep on mental health and physical well-being is profound.

World Sleep Day

World Sleep Day aims to counter the general lack of appreciation for the vital human function of sleep. This annual event is organized by the World Sleep Society. Since 2008, it has been held on the Friday before the March Equinox. In 2021, it will be held on March 19th. The slogan for this year’s event is “Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.”

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

The aim of World Sleep Day is to educate the world about the importance of sleep and also to provide resources for achieving healthy sleep, such as presentations, discussions, exhibitions, and educational materials. This year, because of the pandemic restrictions, the events and resources will be provided online.

Sleep Effect on Mental Health

The sleep deprivation effects on mental health have been acknowledged ever since the phrase woke up on the wrong side of the bed” was coined. Since then, there has been a lot of research to confirm that lack of sleep profoundly affects our mental and emotional state.

Tired man experiencing sleep effect on mental health.
Researchers Believe That Jack Of Sleep Is a Contributing Factor To Depression (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When we get a good night’s sleep, the brain is able to process emotional information. But when we don’t, the brain’s ability to evaluate and remember thoughts is impaired. This appears to be particularly true with regard to positive emotional content. As a result, people who are sleep deprived are more likely to exhibit a negative mood.

Research into this area has led people to question the long-held belief that the inability to sleep is a symptom of a mental health disorder. It is now believed that sleep deprivation may be a causal factor in mental health conditions.

Around three quarters of people who suffer from depression also suffer from insomnia. Researchers believe that lack of sleep is a contributing factor to depression. As a result, a negative feedback loop is created whereby lack of sleep makes depression worse, and the depression makes it harder to get to sleep. However, the realization that lack of sleep is actually a contributing factor opens up new treatment possibilities for depression.

Other Effects of Sleep Deprivation

In addition to contributing to such mental health conditions as depression, lack of sleep results in reduced productivity throughout a person’s waking hours. If you feel lethargic and lacking in energy, it is harder to focus on a single task and be productive. 

Portrait of a tired young businesswoman sitting at the table with laptop computer while holding cup of coffee.
Lack Of Sleep Results In Reduced Productivity Throughout A Person’s Waking Hours (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Lack of sleep also results in hormonal changes that have a direct correlation with weight gain. Secretion of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, is increased, while that of the satiety hormone, leptin, is reduced. That’s why people often feel hungry after a bad night’s sleep.

A lack of continuous, deep sleep will also result in increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. This leads to heightened stress and anxiety. 

How to Get Better Sleep

Here are four tips for better sleep that really work:

Spend Less Time in Bed

Spending less time in bed is the most important thing you can do to get better sleep. You need to stop lying in all morning or thinking you can get to bed earlier to catch up on sleep—it doesn’t work!

Beautiful woman waking up in her bed.
The Ideal Time Across The Board Appears To Be Between Seven And Eight And A Half Hours (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When you hit the sheets, you should be sleepy. So, do not go to bed until you are tired.

Work out the number of hours of sleep that you need to ensure that you will be really tired when you go to bed. The ideal time across the board appears to be between seven and eight and a half hours. The exact number of hours varies by person but should be how much sleep you need to feel great throughout the day, yet still have you feeling ready for sleep when you hit the sack. You should wake up in the morning and feel ready to get out of bed.

Also, if you find yourself waking up a half hour before the alarm goes off and just dozing for the next 30 minutes, set your alarm back by half an hour. By doing this, you will find yourself having just as much energy throughout the day but falling asleep much faster at night.

Do NOT Nap

Taking a nap during the day will always cost you in terms of getting a decent sleep at night. If naps become the norm for you, they will hamper your chances of sleeping at night. Believe me, it makes a big difference. So, sacrifice the naps, not the night-time slumber!

Young businessman taking a nap at the office.
If Naps Become The Norm For You, They Will Hamper Your Chances Of Sleeping At Night (Image Source: Shutterstock)

When You Can’t Sleep, Get Up

When you can’t sleep, the last thing you should do is to just lie there and stew about it. Get out of bed and do something. Every second you lie in bed, unable to sleep, reinforces the connection between bed and anxiety and weakens the connection between bed and sleep. Just lying in bed will not help you get to sleep. You need to wait until the sleepy feeling comes.

Woman at home bedroom lying in bed late at night trying to sleep suffering insomnia.
Every Second You Lie In Bed, Unable To Sleep, Reinforces The Connection Between Bed And Anxiety (Image Source: Shutterstock)

If you cannot get to sleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but it should be pre-planned out before you go to bed. You could read, write, or do a jigsaw puzzle, for example.

Get Up at the Same Time Every Day

The body thrives on regularity, especially when it comes to sleep. Once you have worked out how many hours of sleep you need to be fully refreshed, you will also know at what time you need to be getting up. Make sure that you do—even on the weekends!

Happy wake up of a happy man lying on the bed and stopping alarm clock.
The Body Thrives On Regularity, Especially When It Comes To Sleep (Image Source: Shutterstock)

If you want to get a great night’s sleep every night, then you need to ditch the idea of sleeping in on the weekends!

Good sleep loves routine. Be sure to follow one!

Get ready for World Sleep Day this year by taking a look at your sleeping habits and determining what changes you need to make. And don’t forget to use our better sleep tips!