How Does Sleep Affect Your Mental Health?

Angela M  |  23 May 2023

No one can underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, but how much does it really affect you? We’ve all heard the saying “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” and many of us have experienced how a rough night’s sleep can impact our day, but is it more than that?

There are 5 different stages of sleep and each stage has a job in different parts of the brain, including enabling better thinking, learning, and memory. It has been uncovered that brain activity during sleep has serious effects on emotional and mental health.

What Can Happen Due to Lack of Sleep

So what happens if you are struggling with sleep issues? Here are some of the most common consequences due to lack of sleep:

Brain Fog

This one might sound all too familiar to new moms! Basically, our brains need sleep to operate at full capacity. Lack of sleep can lead to brain fog, which often feels like confusion or trouble concentrating. It might be more difficult to recall certain memories or find the right words for what you want to say when you haven’t gotten enough sleep. You might find it difficult to be productive—things can feel overwhelming when your brain hasn’t had a full night’s rest.

Mood Changes

Another one that might not be too surprising is that lack of sleep may cause mood changes, including increased irritability. With more serious sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression may also be experienced.

Lack of sleep has been found to lead to increased levels of anger and aggression. This is because when sleep-deprived, the brain suppresses the amygdala. The amygdala is in charge of our emotional responses. It needs sleep because that is when it processes emotion. Without enough sleep, the amygdala causes your immediate emotional reactions to intensify. You can see why parents might not be looking forward to when their teenager comes home from a sleepover.

Behavior Changes

You may also experience unusual behaviors, including increased impulsivity, hyperactivity, and emotional outbursts. It might even feel like a struggle to just interact with people when sleep-deprived. You may act erratically or feel like you have a short fuse.


Sleep issues can affect your ability to cope with even relatively minor stress. Everyday issues can turn into major sources of frustration.

Although sleep affects many hormone levels, cortisol (the hormone that impacts stress levels) has one of the biggest impacts on the state of our mental health. When you don’t get enough sleep, too much cortisol is produced. This puts your body in a constant state of stress, making you unable to relax. This is the reason individuals under a lot of stress suffer from insomnia—the increased amounts of cortisol actually keep them awake!

What You Can Do to Improve Sleep

A common cause of sleep problems is poor sleep hygiene. Improving sleep hygiene by creating habits and a bedroom setting that are conducive to sleep can contribute to reducing sleep disruptions.

Some things you can do to improve your sleep quality include:

Limit napping. As much as you may love a good nap, too much sleep during the day can impact your ability to fall or stay asleep at night. Keep daytime naps of 20 to 30 minutes. You will feel more alert and rested without disrupting your nightly sleep.

Establish a nightly routine. There’s a reason babies find comfort in a bedtime routine… It prepares you for rest each night. Find which activities work for you: taking a bath, reading a book, or practicing a few minutes of meditation to calm your body. Repeat these routines each night to help set you up for sleep. Also, have a set bedtime and maintain a steady sleep schedule.

Create an environment conducive to sleep. Block out excess light and sound that could disrupt sleep. Maximize comfort and support from your mattress, pillows, and bedding.

Limit alcohol: Alcohol before bed may lead to waking up during the night or early in the morning. Try limiting or avoiding alcohol completely to see how it changes your sleep quality.

Avoid caffeine or stimulants too close to bedtime. Sleep is just another serious reason to kick these habits to the curb. Drinking coffee, soda, or other caffeinated products in the late afternoon or evening can make it difficult for your body to shut down and fall asleep. Nicotine is another stimulant that often causes poor sleep.

Turn off your devices. This is a big one. Devices make it difficult to relax, or settle down, and sleep. Except for the use of a sleep app, try setting limits on how long you use devices before bed. You should try putting your device away at least an hour before bed. Dimming the lights on your device is also more conducive to sleep.

Finding the routines and bedroom arrangement that fit you best may take some time, but it can benefit you greatly by helping you fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the night. The benefits of that are priceless! If you’d like some help creating these routines and identifying how to improve your sleep, reach out to Angela today at today!


Hi I'm Angela

I am a Certified Health Coach and the founder of Bee Healthy Coaching. As a mom of 4 and step mom of 3, it is my mission to provide you with the tools, resources, and encouragement needed to overcome obstacles, find balance, and thrive.

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