Menu Close

sleep and mental health

sleep and mental health

learn how lack of sleep affects mental health, causing anxiety, depression and worsening symptoms of other mental health conditions

Sleep problems can have a negative impact on your mental health and it can present a repeating cycle that might lead to experiencing anxiety and other mental health conditions. 

Sleep disturbances, especially insomnia, are more common in people with mental illnesses than in the general population. In fact, nearly half of them experience difficulty falling and staying asleep, especially during acute episodes and early psychosis. Around one-third of people diagnosed with mood disorders experience sleep problems, similar to those with bipolar.

Sleep problems can be displayed in various ways. You might:

  • Experience disrupted sleep
  • Struggle to get yourself up from bed or awaken in the morning. 
  • Encounter difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking earlier. 
  • Certain behaviours during sleep which impact sleep quality, such as sleep talking, teeth grinding, sleep apnea or sleepwalking.

Common myths about sleep and mental health

Sleep problems are just a symptom of mental health issues

Research suggests that improving sleep quality and duration can improve your mental health. It’s good to seek support if you have concerns of sleep problems impacting your mental health

I can function fine on little sleep

Sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of problems with your mood, mind and mental health. While occasional short nights may not immediately impact you, it can get worse over time with repeated limited sleep.

Sleeping pills are the best solution for sleep issues

Dependency on sleeping pills can develop quickly and they may not address the underlying causes of sleep problems. Seeking support, relaxation techniques and lifestyle adjustments are considered safer and more effective long-term solutions.

How does my mental health impact sleep? 

Mental health problems can be very disruptive to sleep. Even if you manage to achieve some sleep throughout the night, you might have poor sleep quality due to the nature of the rest. Many different mental health conditions can affect your sleep, which results in poor sleep quality. A few could be: 

  • PTSD can cause flashbacks or nightmares which prevent you from sleeping
  • Depression can make it much harder to get up after you’ve slept
  • Anxiety can cause unwanted and repetitive thoughts that make you unable to fall asleep
  • Psychosis may cause you to hear or see frightening things that you can’t fall asleep with
  • Bipolar may cause people go to sleep and wake later than usual and sleep patterns can change drastically depending weather person is experiencing manic or depressive episode.
  • Stress can make you feel like you’re under too much pressure to fall asleep or get out of bed.

“Anxiety affects how I feel and see things daily. I can feel very agitated—my heart races. I struggle to sleep. I can feel alone, scared, upset, worried. I start to overthink and overanalyse everything. I battle within myself.

“I know my problems and I know how to change it. I know how to make myself feel better, but it’s very easy to slip into that mindset of having a negative voice in your head.” 

Anxiety can affect your sleep among other aspects of your life. You can read more about Beth’s story here.

How much sleep should I be getting?

Understanding how much sleep you require is essential for your overall health and well-being. Here’s a breakdown, as suggested by the NHS: 

  • Adults: aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Children: typically need 9 to 13 hours to feel rested and rejuvenated.
  • Toddlers and babies: require the most sleep, aiming for 12 to 17 hours of sleep each day.

We all have different sleep needs and it’s important that it’s not just about quantity but also quality. Regular exercise may require more restful sleep, while stress levels may need more sleep to support mental and emotional wellbeing. During illness or recovery, the body often needs additional sleep for healing and immune system strengthening. The body needs extra sleep to heal and boost the immune system. Lifestyle changes, like shift work or travel, can affect sleep patterns that need adjusting.

Additionally, life stages can impact sleep needs. As you age, your sleep duration may change to stay healthy. While pregnant women may experience increased fatigue, potentially requiring more sleep, menopausal women might encounter changes in sleep patterns due to hormonal shifts.

Keep in mind that during the winter months, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can impact both the quality and duration of your sleep.

What can I do to have better sleep?

Being stuck in this repeating cycle can negatively impact your day-to-day life. For example, it might feel impossible to leave your bed in the morning or you might be too exhausted from lack of sleep to leave the house. Here are some suggestions to improve sleep problems:

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps your body’s internal clock and improves the quality of your sleep. When the clocks change, you might be out of sorts. Read our resource on clock changes and your mental health.

Create a bedtime routine

Establish a calming pre-sleep routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This could include activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

Improve your sleep environment

Make sure your bedroom is good for sleep by keeping it dark, quiet and cool. If possible, consider investing in a better mattress and pillows and using white noise machines or earplugs to block out distractions.

Exercise as often as you can

Your body will be worn out from physical activity, which should allow you to sleep better and the endorphins that come with the exercise will improve your mood.

Limit exposure to screens before bed

The light emitted by screens can interfere with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Try to avoid using electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers at least two hours before bedtime.

Watch your diet and caffeine intake

Avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, as these can disrupt sleep. Instead, opt for light snacks if you’re hungry before bed and limit caffeine consumption after 4 pm or earlier.

If you’re having trouble sleeping even after trying these strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to your GP. They can give you personalised recommendations, refer you to a sleep specialist or offer treatments to address your specific sleep issues.


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

Skip to content