Why sleep is important for our mental health

Written by Shelley Lindo

When we’re sleeping well, many of us take sleep for granted. It’s hard to believe that this simple act, or lack of it, can have such an impact on our mental health. But anyone who isn’t getting enough sleep can tell you how much it affects their mood.

In this blog, we’ll look at how sleep affects mental health, and what we can do to improve the sleep we get.

What happens to our brain when we sleep

While it may seem like there isn’t anything actually happening while we sleep, the body is in fact going through essential processes to repair itself. Not getting enough sleep can affect how we feel,  often leading to low mood, we’re less able to manage our emotions. Continually not getting enough sleep can lead to a higher risk of developing depression. 

The brain ‘recharges’ while we sleep to help us perform throughout the day. If you are not getting enough quality sleep, you may notice that you find it hard to concentrate, your performance is slower, and you keep forgetting things. If you feel like you are experiencing an ongoing struggle with sleeping it is important to speak with your GP as there may be an underlying cause.

What are the stages of sleep?

The stages of sleep are divided into Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). NREM starts off as a light sleep and progresses through stages getting deeper until we enter into REM sleep which sees an increase in brain activity. It is at this stage which are memories are processed, we experience dreams and mental and emotional development.

Everyone’s sleeping habits are different and it’s not always possible to get the same amount of hours of sleep every single night. Ideally you should sleep roughly the same length of time each night, but quality of sleep is important too.  

How to improve your sleep

Have a consistent sleep routine

Setting a routine can help prepare your mind and body for bedtime – according to OCD UK a regular sleeping pattern can play a part in reducing the anxiety caused by OCD.

Having a consistent sleep schedule helps maintain the body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at the right time, and stay asleep as long as you need to.

Keep electronic devices away from where you sleep

If you can’t sleep, it can be tempting to scroll on your phone until you feel tired. But this can actually harm our quality of sleep.

Electronic devices often use a type of light called blue light. This blue light alters the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle, also called the circadian rhythm. This makes it more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day, meaning you’ll feel more tired and irritable.

Avoid napping

Try to avoid napping or oversleeping, which can be just as bad as not getting enough sleep. Depression can make you sleep more, leading to you feeling like you need more sleep to properly rest.

Avoid eating before sleep

Avoid eating close to bedtime, as your body is then working on digesting food, which can prevent a restful sleep.


Try to get some exercise during the day, the more active you are when you are awake the better you’ll be able to sleep at night as your body and mind will be tired out.

Remember what works for someone else may not work for you, so try different sleep techniques until you find what works best for you.

Hopefully these tips help you sleep better, and your mental health improves!

Read more ways to improve your mental health, or learn how stress impacts our mental health.

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Posted on: 19th October 2022

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