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The Role of Sleep in Mental Health



Many of us have a tangled and unhelpful relationship with sleep. When we’re kids, our parents tend to be careful about bedtimes, favouring early nights and daytime naps are encouraged, and tons of effort is taken to ensure baby is woken up by a single chink of light or a misplaced cough. Baby bad moods are often blamed on lack of sleep and even as baby starts to grow, constantly bedtimes are NOT negotiable, 7 pm, lights out, no ifs and buts (for the children’s benefit, and not for the bottle of red sat on the kitchen side honest)


And for all of that are parents, trying to function with a tired small child is near impossible, tears, wailing, minor dramas turning into catastrophes, many on a biblical scale and a simple giggle can turn into raving hysteria, therefore to ensure you don’t experience the same symptoms, paying a LOT of attention to how well and how often our children sleep is very, very important.

Then we are suddenly adolescents, proud of our independence and ability to take control of our own decisions. Why would we turn the lights off at ten or midnight, or even 2 am when we are quite obviously not toddlers anymore?


What we have overlooked here is that even as adults we need our sleep, we are sensitive to being tired and we simply cannot function without a healthy amount of sleep.


Sleep also has a strong effect on mood. Not getting enough sleep will make you irritable, moody and most likely sad. Your mental health is adversely affected by tiredness as is your ability to do tasks, like driving for instance..


Not too many people do well on less than 7 hours sleep in 24 hours, less than that and you trading off a couple of extra waking hours for a significant and negative effect on your energy, mental sharpness and also your ability to handle stress and manage your emotions.


As adults we get ‘over tired’ too, instead of being like our tired children, we add to being a bit teary and unreasonable with dark thoughts, everyone hates us, why did I get dumped? Whats  the point? And of course, why does this keep happening to me?

Over a long period of time, not getting enough sleep will damage your health and will make depression worse, but it’s not all bad, you can fix it and you dont need to medicate, self or other wise. By understanding how much sleep you need over a 24 hour period to function at a higher level, you can bounce back, create a new super habit and simply feel better.


There are always plenty of reasons to live, and you can see them more clearly through well rested eyes. So go ahead, enjoy giving yourself the privilege of a wee nap or get used to how amazing you feel after a long night’s sleep.


Heres a link to an excellent sleep self assessment quiz, there are loads more resources there too.

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