Sleep and mental health are closely linked, and when you are deprived of sleep, it affects you psychologically as well as physically. People with mental health problems have a higher chance of having insomnia and other sleep disorders.

The American Sleep Association states that 50 to 70 million adults in the United States are victims of sleep disorder. The most commonly reported sleep disorder is insomnia, with approximately 30 percent of adults reporting short-term issues and about 10 percent reporting chronic insomnia. As per a report published by American Sleep Apnea Association, over 50 million people in the US already suffer from more than 80 different sleep disorders and another 20 to 30 million suffer intermittent sleep issues every year. At least 1 in 5 adults (25 million Americans) suffers from sleep apnea, which is a serious sleep and breathing condition that is associated with cognitive impairment, hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Mental and Emotional Health

When you are trying to build a healthy lifestyle, food and exercise are not the only important things to focus on. The importance of making sure that you get enough sleep cannot be stressed enough. Rest is essential for your body and mind to function at is very best efficiency. Without it, your physical, mental and emotional health will suffer, which will potentially push you further away from the personal goals you have. When you sleep, your body and mind, gets the much-needed time to cleanse, stabilize and heal.

Here are some of the ways that lack of sleep has on your mental and emotional health.

  • Your Brain Does Not Function as It Should: While you sleep, your brain goes to work to cleanse itself of waste that build up between cells in the form of proteins throughout the day. According to a study that was published in Science, the shrinking of brain cells of mice may actually occur during the sleep process so that the volume of liquid that flows in and out of the brain can be accommodated and help in clearing out waste. Once the mice wake up, the cells then seem to expand.

The findings of this study support a later study that showed that a dampening effect on the activity of brain cells is caused by sleep deprivation. The intention of the study was to learn more about epilepsy treatment, but researchers discovered that when you are tired, the neurons in the brain send their signals at slower speeds. Buildup of waste and slow neuron signals often lead to reduced reaction times, decision-making skills and reasoning abilities.

  • You Become More Emotionally Reactive: Whether losing your cool with your children, getting into a fight with your partner, or snapping at a colleague, not getting enough sleep increases the likelihood of more impulsive and intense emotional responses. Such situations go against the foundations of healthier, happier relationships. However, emotional reactivity goes beyond crankiness. That same hair trigger that causes you to be irritated with people around you can be draining and exhausting. This leaves you feeling like you are at the mercy of your feelings and you begin to criticize yourself for not being more adept at managing your own emotions.

According to research, even just one a single night of sleep deprivation can set you up to react more impulsively and stronger to unpleasant or negative situations. And when you operate with a chronic sleep debt, as you have found that so many adults do, you contend every day with this heightened emotional reactivity. Research shows that sleep deprivation results in an increase in the activity in the brain’s emotional rapid response center – an area known as the amygdale. This is the brain part that controls many of your immediate emotional responses. When you do not get enough sleep, the response center amygdala goes into overdrive, which in turn leads you to react more intensely to situations. It is interesting to note that it is not only anger, fear and other negative emotions that get a heightened response. There are studies that show that sleep deprivation causes people to be more reactive across the whole spectrum of emotions, not just positive but also negative.

  • Lack of Sleep Can Cause Depression and Anxiety: Over the years, researchers have found that the majority of adults and children with depression also suffer from some form of sleep disorder, with the most common conditions being sleep apnea and insomnia. Research has found that people with insomnia are 4 times more likely to develop depression than those who do not suffer from insomnia.  There have also been studies that looked at the link between sleep and depression in young people and found that their problems with sleep began before they developed depression.

It is estimated that over half of adults who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder also have issues with sleep. Sleep and anxiety can have a cyclical relationship, meaning that being anxious can make it difficult for you to fall and stay asleep. This in turn leads to anxiety about losing sleep. According to one survey, more than half of people with both anxiety and sleep problems found that they developed anxiety that is specific to falling asleep at night. Much like sleep and depression, the symptoms of anxiety can be amplified when you lose quality rest and sleep. However, unlike depression, research shows that symptoms of anxiety typically surface before problems with sleep do.

Sleep, or lack of it, has quite a few negative effects on your emotional and mental health. Therefore, it is important to take the necessary steps to address any sleep issues as soon as you notice them. Take a good look at what could be preventing you from getting the sleep you need. If you think that your mattress could be the culprit, you should get a new one designed for your preferred sleep position.

If it is environmental factors like room temperature, light or noise, you can adjust the temperature in your bedroom, get blackout curtains to help absorb sounds, or purchase a motion-activated nightlight to help in keeping light to a minimum while you sleep at night. Make sleeping well a priority so that you give your body and mind the chance to get the rest they need.