How Sleep Enhances Your Mental Health


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A good night’s sleep sets the foundation for a healthy and productive day – and its importance cannot be overstated! Sleep is not just about getting rest; it affects our mental health and overall ability to function. The quality of our sleep is intertwined with our psychological well-being, making it a critical topic for anyone wanting to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life. 

The Connection Between Mental Health and Sleep 

A review of over 8,600 sleep study participants confirmed that getting better sleep quality positively influenced overall mental well-being, helping improve people’s mood, nervousness, and negative thoughts. By taking steps to improve their sleep quality, people were able to lower their stress levels and feel calmer. [1]

How sleep affects brain function 

Sleep and emotional regulation are closely interconnected. A well-rested night strengthens our emotional resilience, making managing stress and challenging situations easier during the day. When we rest, our brains keep busy with important jobs, such as: 

Organizing emotions 

Sleep gives the brain time to repair and reorganize. During deep sleep stages, the brain processes and consolidates emotional experiences, allowing us to cope effectively with our emotions when we are awake. [2]

Balancing brain chemicals 

Sleep also plays a role in balancing brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are key players in mood regulation. We rely on a healthy balance of these chemicals to feel good. [3] 

Clearing unhealthy proteins 

Sleep helps the brain conduct important housekeeping activities, such as clearing potentially dangerous beta-amyloid proteins. Studies suggest that healthy adults who miss just one night of sleep can increase the amount of beta amyloids in their brains by about 5%. [4] 

Sleep Conditions and Mental Health 

Struggling to get a good night’s sleep may be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder, which in turn can impact mental health. Three common sleep disorders that are linked with changes in brain function are: 

  • Insomnia [1]
  • Sleep apnea [5] 
  • Circadian rhythm disorders, such as jet lag and shift work [6] 

Insomnia and mental health 

Nearly one out of every three people experiences some form of insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep condition characterized by difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. [1] If you struggle with insomnia several times a week and for as long as three months, it is important to consult a medical professional or sleep specialist who can offer personalized guidance and support tailored to your specific situation. [7] 

Sleep apnea and mood 

Sleep apnea causes more than nighttime disturbances. Daytime sleepiness is a common issue, along with notable cognitive difficulties affecting mood, memory, and attention. Studies have raised alarms about the effects of sleep apnea on mental health. Up to 48% of sleep apnea patients struggle with their mood, highlighting the importance of addressing this condition for overall well-being. [5] Sleep apnea is a medical condition; a medical doctor or sleep specialist should evaluate anyone experiencing symptoms. 

Circadian rhythm disorders and mood 

Conditions like shift work disorder and jet lag disorder disrupt the body’s internal clock, making it even harder to fall asleep and get the full restorative benefits from your sleep. Both jet lag and shift work, as well as the nighttime exposure to artificial light that often accompanies them, are known to affect the body’s stress response and make existing mood issues more extreme. [6] [8] It is important to seek professional help from a medical doctor or sleep specialist when you experience persistent irregular sleep patterns. Circadian rhythm disorder may be diagnosed after at least three months of disrupted sleep-wake schedules. [6] 

The Stress-Sleep Cycle 

Daily stress and sleep are deeply intertwined. Stress acts as both a cause and consequence of poor sleep, resulting in a continual stress-sleep cycle. Understanding how stress and sleep are related is essential for keeping both your sleep and mental health in check. 

Stress and sleep quality 

Studies show that a particularly taxing day can shave off as much as 14 precious minutes of sleep at night. Elevated stress during the day can trigger a cycle of overthinking and heightened alertness at night, making it more difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling rejuvenated. For some, the fear of losing precious sleep itself can worsen stress levels. [9] 

How poor sleep causes stress 

Losing out on a full night’s sleep can crank up feelings of stress, making it harder to bounce back and cope effectively. On a physiological level, the body responds to both stress and to disrupted sleep by kickstarting two of its stress-management systems: the sympatho-adreno-medullary system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. These systems, in turn, alter our heart rate and signal the release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol that keep the stress-sleep cycle going. [9] 

Tips for Better Sleep and Mental Health 

In today’s fast-paced world, avoiding stress and getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging. Thankfully, there are practical strategies for improving your sleep quality and setting the foundation for good mental health. Proper sleep hygiene, making simple adjustments to diet and exercise, and practising relaxation techniques along with certain supplements can help you prepare for a restful and mentally restorative night. 

woman looking at her phone in bed at night

Practice sleep hygiene 

Practising good sleep hygiene is a great step toward having a restful night and supporting mental health. Sleep hygiene involves: [10] 

  1. Setting a consistent sleep schedule for going to bed and waking up on time 
  2. Creating a comfortable sleep environment that is dark, cool, and quiet 
  3. Limiting exposure to screens before bedtime to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm 
  4. Avoiding caffeinated food and drinks, alcohol, and nicotine late in the day or evening, which can be stimulating and keep you awake   
  5. Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes or less 
tray of a variety of healthy food on a bed

Eat a diet that supports quality sleep 

What you eat plays a vital role in sleep quality and mental health. Eating a balanced diet of wholefoods is important for overall mental and physical well-being while avoiding heavy meals close to bedtime can help prevent disruptions to your sleep. [11]  

[10] Including dietary sources of tryptophan and melatonin in your meals may also promote healthy sleep patterns. Tryptophan is an amino acid used by the body to make the hormone melatonin, which guides the sleep-wake cycle. [11]  

Wonderful sources of tryptophan include: [11] 

  • Dairy products 
  • Fish and seafood 
  • Grains, such as oat bran and buckwheat 
  • Legumes, such as soybeans and black beans 

Dietary sources of melatonin include: [11] 

  • Tart cherries 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Strawberries 
  • Almonds 
  • Walnuts 

Exercise regularly 

Getting regular physical activity reduces stress and promotes relaxation, making it an essential step towards a more restful night. Even just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily has been found to help college students sleep longer at night and lower their feelings of fatigue in class. [12] 

Relax before bedtime 

Taking part in calming activities before bed, such as practising mindfulness, deep breathing, and gentle stretching, can help focus your mind and clear feelings of stress that keep you awake. [10] 

Support your healthy sleep habits 

Sleep-supportive supplements can be a great complement to your healthy, sleep-supportive diet. Sleep Cycle combines quick and slow-release melatonin with a calming nighttime botanical blend of valerian, passionflower, hops, L-theanine, and 5-HTP for added relaxation and support. The convenient tri-layer tablets release 5 mg of melatonin immediately to help you fall asleep, and another 5 mg of melatonin steadily throughout the night to improve the duration and quality of your sleep! 

The essential mineral magnesium can also promote a good night’s rest by relaxing tight muscles. [13] Melatonin Magnesium is a relaxing nighttime formula that promotes falling asleep quickly and improves sleep quality. 

If you already get enough magnesium through your diet, there are many other supplements for sleep to choose from. 

If you have been struggling with sleeplessness for three months (known as chronic insomnia), it is best to consult a physician for professional help to get your sleep back on track. 

The Long-Term Benefits of Consistent, Quality Sleep 

Getting enough high-quality sleep doesn’t just leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead. Sleep significantly contributes to your mental and emotional well-being over the long run. Recognizing how deeply sleep impacts your ability to think clearly and cope with life’s challenges underscores the importance of building healthy sleep habits and fostering your mental health. 

Patience Lister, BSc

Patience Lister, BSc

A wellness writer who helps to inspire healthier & more sustainable food and supplement choices.

References :
  1. Scott AJ, Webb TL, Martyn-St James M, et al. Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. 2021; 60:101556. 

  2. Vandekerckhove M, Wang YL. Emotion, emotion regulation and sleep: An intimate relationship. AIMS Neurosci. 2017; 5(1):1-17. 

  3. Rodrigo A. España, Thomas E. Scammell. Sleep neurobiology from a clinical perspective. Sleep, 2011; 34(7):845-58. 

  4. Shokri-Kojori E, Wang GJ, Wiers CE, et al. β-Amyloid accumulation in the human brain after one night of sleep deprivation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018; 115(17):4483-8. 

  5. Rezaeitalab F, Moharrari F, Saberi S, et al. The correlation of anxiety and depression with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. J Res Med Sci. 2014; 19(3):205-10. 

  6. Steele TA, St Louis EK, Videnovic A, et al. Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders: A contemporary review of neurobiology, treatment, and dysregulation in neurodegenerative disease. Neurotherapeutics. 2021; 18(1):53-74. 

  7. Sleep On It Canada. (n.d.). Sleep Disorders. Sleep On It Canada. 

  8. Walker WH 2nd, Walton JC, DeVries AC, et al. Circadian rhythm disruption and mental health. Transl Psychiatry. 2020; 10(1):28. 

  9. Slavish DC, Asbee J, Veeramachaneni K, et al. The cycle of daily stress and sleep: sleep measurement matters. Ann Behav Med. 2021; 55(5):413-23. 

  10. Irish LA, Kline CE, Gunn HE, et al. The role of sleep hygiene in promoting public health: A review of empirical evidence. Sleep Med Rev. 2015; 22:23-36. 

  11. Zuraikat FM, Wood RA, Barragán R, et al. Sleep and diet: Mounting evidence of a cyclical relationship. Annu Rev Nutr. 2021; 41:309-32. 

  12. Li W, Chen J, Li M, et al. The effect of exercise on academic fatigue and sleep quality among university students. Front Psychol. 2022; 13:1025280. 

  13. Saba S, Faizi F, Sepandi M, et al. Effect of short-term magnesium supplementation on anxiety, depression and sleep quality in patients after open-heart surgery. Magnes Res. 2022; 35(2):62-70. 

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