Exploring The Link Between Sleep And Mental Health

Exploring The Link Between Sleep And Mental Health

Think about the last time you didn't get enough sleep - did you find yourself feeling moody or restless the next day? If your answer is yes, you might be suffering from sleep deprivation. Sleep is not just a state of rest for the body; it is a critical process that allows our mind and body to rejuvenate and function optimally. The intricate connection between sleep and mental health has been the subject of numerous studies, highlighting the profound impact that sleep - or lack thereof - can have on our mood, behaviour, and overall mental well-being.

Furthermore, it is also worth recognising that just as insufficient sleep can impact mental well-being, challenges with mental health can also contribute to difficulties with sleep. For example, it is common for individuals dealing with heightened stress or anxiety to experience vivid stress dreams that may disrupt their sleep patterns.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, for adults (How Much Sleep Do You Really Need? - National Sleep Foundation, 2020). However, a substantial portion of the population fails to meet this recommendation, leading to potential consequences for mental health. For example, Singapore is one of the most sleep-deprived nations in the world. According to a 2021 sleep survey by Philips, the COVID-19 pandemic has especially impacted the sleep of many Singaporeans, with about 57% of respondents reporting poor quality sleep (Philips, 2021).

Let's look at the ways sleep affects our mental well-being, and how we can improve our sleep quality.

How sleep affects your mental health

  1. Mood changes

. Adequate sleep is crucial for emotional regulation and stability. Research has consistently shown that sleep deprivation can contribute to heightened irritability, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. A recent study in 2011 discovered a significant association between sleep disturbances and the development of mood disorders, further emphasising the importance of prioritising quality sleep to promote emotional well-being (Baglioni et al., 2011).

  1. Behavioural changes

Sleep deprivation can lead to pronounced behavioural changes. Impaired cognitive function, reduced decision-making abilities, and difficulty controlling impulses are common consequences of inadequate sleep. A study by Pilcher and Huffcutt (1996) demonstrated that sleep-deprived individuals experienced declines in cognitive performance and psychomotor skills, highlighting the interconnection between sleep and daily functioning.

  1. Brain fog

Sleep is necessary to enable our brains to work at their maximum potential. Insufficient sleep can result in brain fog, often resembling bewilderment or difficulty focusing. It might become more challenging to recollect specific memories or articulate your thoughts accurately when you haven't had enough sleep the previous night. It is likely that you will struggle with productivity; certain tasks may seem overwhelmingly daunting when your mind has not experienced a complete night of rest.

How to improve sleep

  1. Establish a consistent sleep schedule

Aligning your sleep schedule with your body's natural circadian rhythm can significantly enhance sleep quality. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to regulate your internal clock.

  1. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine

Doing relaxing activities before going to sleep can tell your body that it's time to get ready for rest. You could try reading a book, taking a warm bath, or doing calming exercises like deep breathing or meditation.

  1. Limit screen exposure before bed

The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. To promote better sleep, avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime.

  1. Mind your diet and hydration

Avoid large meals, coffee, and alcohol right before bed because these can interfere with your sleep cycle. Staying hydrated throughout the day while moderating fluid intake in the evening can help prevent night-time awakenings.

  1. Engage in regular physical activity

Regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. Physical activity helps regulate the body's internal clock, promoting better sleep-wake cycles, while also reducing stress and anxiety, which can interfere with sleep. It also aids in lessening daytime sleepiness and might even lead to decreased reliance on sleep medications. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days, but refrain from vigorous workouts close to bedtime.

  1. Seek professional help

If you find that your sleep issues persist despite self-help strategies, consider seeking professional help such as psychotherapy in Singapore. Trained therapists can address underlying stress, anxiety, trauma, or behaviour patterns that affect sleep. Expert guidance helps you to develop coping strategies, manage emotions, and reshape sleep beliefs for better sleep quality and overall well-being.


The vital relationship between sleep and mental health is undeniable. Scientific evidence consistently underscores the vital role that sufficient sleep plays in maintaining emotional well-being and cognitive function. By prioritising healthy sleep habits and actively working to improve sleep quality, individuals can take significant strides toward safeguarding their mental health and enhancing their overall quality of life. Professional services such as adult counselling in Singapore can also help in navigating any sleep-related mental health difficulties.

With sleep serving as a cornerstone of mental well-being, it is essential to recognise that small changes in sleep habits can yield substantial benefits for mental health. By acknowledging the profound impact of sleep on mood, behaviour, and cognitive function, individuals can embark on a journey toward improved mental well-being through better sleep.


How Much Sleep Do You Really Need? - National Sleep Foundation. (2020, October 1). National Sleep Foundation. https://www.thensf.org/how-many-hours-of-sleep-do-you-really-need/

Philips. (2021). Philips World Sleep Day 2021 Report [PDF document]. https://www.philips.com/c-dam/b2c/master/experience/smartsleep/world-sleep-day/2021/philips-world-sleep-day-2021-report.pdf

Baglioni, C., Battagliese, G., Feige, B., Spiegelhalder, K., Nissen, C., Voderholzer, U., Lombardo, C., & Riemann, D. (2011). Insomnia as a predictor of depression: a meta-analytic evaluation of longitudinal epidemiological studies. Journal of affective disorders, 135(1-3), 10–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2011.01.011

Pilcher, J. J., & Huffcutt, A. I. (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep, 19(4), 318–326. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/19.4.318