OK, this could be a very short blog post because, of course, the answer is yes – lack of sleep affects your mental health. That’s right about on par with saying vegetables are good for you! Or, exercise is important. We learned this stuff in preschool, right?
What matters in terms of mental health and sleep is deeper than that. Does sleep deprivation actually cause mental health disorders? Or, are sleep issues an unhealthy, unfortunate symptom of them?
Can both things be true?
Again, short answer: yes. But you won’t find an easy answer to the question of what came first – the sleepless nights or the sometimes debilitating mental health struggles. Insomnia and other sleep issues can be both a cause and a symptom of mental health disorders.
For example, three-quarters of people who suffer from depression report sleep problems. And … people diagnosed with insomnia are ten times likelier to have depression. So, that whole “chicken or egg” line of thinking is really more of an “and” than an “or.”
The reality is that mental health and sleep have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that both wield immense power to impact the other. It’s also true that there is a significant difference between a few bad nights spent worrying about a new job and a legitimate sleep disorder. Just like there’s a difference between normal stress and clinical depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.