Insomnia mental health

The impact of Insomnia on mental health

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder where an individual finds it challenging to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or may wake up too early and not have the ability to go back to sleep. Our understanding of insomnia is that worry and stress disrupts sleep, creating acute episodes of insomnia particularly difficulty in initiating, and returning to sleep after waking. The individual may develop increased concern around sleep itself and the daytime consequences of not getting enough sleep.
Insomnia feeds increased stress and decreases an individual’s ability to function effectively throughout the day. Insomnia tends to coincide with significant life events and cognitive emotional arousal which is then perceived as stressful by the individual.

Untreated insomnia can significantly4 impact physical and mental health. Insomnia can be a symptom of other psychiatric disorders including major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. Insomnia has been classed as part of the criteria for major depressive disorder, indicating the importance of good, quality sleep on our mental health. Insomnia also increases the risk of suicidal ideation and psychiatric relapse.
Conclusively, insomnia is part of a bigger picture, a picture that can change brain hormonal pathways and lead to emotional states leaving us depressed, stressed and struggling with daily activities. It is important that good quality sleep and allow the brain to achieve REM sleep to reduce the effects of stress, depression, schizophrenia to name a few of the various psychological implications associated with insomnia.

Does sleep effect stress?

Stress in small doses is natural, however too much can have compounding effects on our health. Decreased cortisol levels are linked to a lack of sleep, sleep deprived bodies will react as if in distress, releasing more of the hormone known as cortisol (the stress hormone). Cortisol is useful in situations where fight or flight reactions are triggered to keep the individual safe. If an individual has inconsistent sleeping schedules, the body becomes confused and can no longer regulate the hormone appropriately.

Sickness is a contributing factor to our stress levels. Sleep has been shown to help regulate the immune system, and help improve it. Sickness put strains and stress on the body, causing exhaustion as it works to fight the disease. If good quality of sleep is achieved the body has the ability to fight the infection and help defend against other potential diseases.
Stress, in moderation is not negative, however, significant or prolonged stress is detrimental to our health. Stress triggers the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal and the sympatho-adrenal-medullary axis leading to the release of corticotrophin-releasing hormone and cortisol and catecholamines which are linked to arousal and sleeplessness to humans. Conversely deep sleep is an anti-stress technique and is associated with inhibitory effects on the stress system.

Can sleep improve mental health and how can sleep help your mental health?

There is a strong correlation between poor sleep, poor nutrition and poor mental health. In order to be able to handle stress a good night sleep is essential. Sleep provides a platform for the brain to recharge, process positive emotions and recover.
The brain has the ability to manage and regulate our emotions. Good sleep helps us to avoid consuming food with no nutritional value which, in turn, helps us sleep better. According to Dr. Truong et al (2022), high-carbohydrate meals with a high glycaemic index impact sleep quality. High carbohydrate intakes are associated with an increase wakefulness at night and reduced deep sleep. Energy drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages are also linked to poor sleep quality. Ensuring good nutrition in part of the a good sleep plan. The ability to achieve REM or rapid eye movement is crucial for the brain to enter the processing phase and allows us to manage our emotions, consolidate positive emotions and help us to have control over our emotions.
Sleep is a key part of a healthy life. The fluctuations that occur in the brain while we sleep contribute to feeling well rested, our concentration, memory and healing of trauma. Unfortunately, while poor mental health can negatively impact our sleep patterns, poor sleep patterns can also negatively impact mental health. The treatment of underlying psychiatric issues must be addressed alongside strategies for effective sleep patterns. Mental health treatment should target quality of sleep in order to achieve the greatest results on your mental health.


Truong, K. and Suni. E. 2022. Nutrition and Sleep.

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