Effects of Lack of Sleep on Our Mental Health

Effects of Lack of Sleep on Our Mental Health

Dec 08, 2022

Having good sleeping pattern boosts our immunity and promotes good physical and mental health (7), supports memory, creativity and energy (3). 

Difficulty falling asleep, lack of or feeling fatigued throughout the day, contributes to poor sleep hygiene (2). 

Sleep deficiency can affect concentration, mood, weight (3), appetite, cognitive function, immunity and increases the risk of developing serious health problems and chronic illnesses (such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases) (2). 

One study found that within 11,000 children, aged 9-11, depression, anxiety, impulsive behaviour and poor cognitive performance was associated with a shorter sleep duration (10). 


Common Causes 

  • Fatigue may be the result of an iron deficiency.  

Iron supplies oxygen to the body's cells and if they do not receive enough oxygen, this can initiate the “fight or flight” response. If the body is in a constant state of “fight or flight” this can cause extreme fatigue, chronic stress and anxiety. 

  • Too much, napping frequently throughout the day or sleeping too late/too early can affect your circadian rhythms/sleep wake cycle, which should be synchronised to the sun (going to bed when it is dark and awake and active when it is light) (1). 

Constant disruption to your circadian rhythms “confuses” the body and it makes it harder to sleep during the night. 


Tips For Bedtime 

  1. Keep your bedroom cool and dark 
  2. Have a regular schedule (got to bed and wake at the same time every day)  
  3. Relax before bedtime (try to read a book instead of using your phone or watching TV) (2) 
  4. Relaxation methods such as meditation can be useful 
  5. Remove technology from the bedroom to minimise blue light exposure 
  6. Ensure you have a good quality mattress (3) 
  7. Drink less water in the evenings to minimise trips to the bathroom during the night  
  8. Avoid heavy meals late at night  
  9. Avoid the use of stimulants (caffeine and alcohol)   
  10. Eat a healthy diet (restrict your intake of white flour products, dairy products, sugar and ultra-processed products) 
  11. Exercise daily (4) 
  12. Plan ahead, to avoid the effects of jet lag, so you can still get your hours in when travelling


Effects of Lack of Sleep on Our Mental Health


How much do I need? 

  • 0 - 3 months: 14-17 hours/day 
  • 4 - 11 months: 12-15 hours/day 
  • 1 - 2 years: 11-14 hours/day 
  • 3 - 5: 10-13 hours/day 
  • 6 -13: 9-11 hours/day 
  • 14 - 17: 8-10 hours/day 
  • 18 - 25: 7-9 hours/day 
  • 26 - 64: 7 - 9 hours/day 
  • 65+: 7-8 hours/day (4) 


Does Sleep Affect Mood? 

People who have been diagnosed with a mental illness (depression, feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, ect.) are more likely, than the general population to have poor sleep quality. A review of studies found that sleep patterns were affected by mental illnesses, regardless of diagnosis. 

People who had five hours or less, a night at age 50 were 20% more likely to be diagnosed with chronic disease and 40% more likely to be diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases compared to those who have seven hours or more. It has also been linked to a 30-40% increase in risk of multimorbidity (9). 

One study found that out of 89,205 individuals (who wore accelerometers, in order to record their wake time, nap and duration), those who had a previous diagnosis of mental illness had lower sleep quality than those who did not. 

This is supported by the idea that treatments that aim to improve sleep quality can improve mental health outcomes (6). 

Furthermore, out of 617 students 51% reported poor sleep quality. Out of the participants, 30% had anxiety and 18% had depression, it was concluded that poor sleep quality was significantly, positively associated with anxiety and depression (5). 

From a sample of 4,790 participants, those who experienced depression reported poor quality and quantity of sleep and those with anxiety had poor quality of sleep, compared to those who didn’t have anxiety or depression (8). 


Supplements For a Good Night's Sleep  

  • Magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia and general disruption, so a good quality magnesium supplement should be taken before bedtime, to help relax the muscles and stay asleep for longer. 
  • Ashwagandha is natural herb with “sleep inducing” potential, thought to improve quality, as it promotes feelings of calmness and relaxation (1). 
  • Low levels of serotonin have been linked to many mental illnesses. Serotonin deficiency can be caused by lack of sleep. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and has been known to increase levels of serotonin. Foods that contain Tryptophan include soybeans, beans, lentils, sesame, tahini, houmous and tofu.  

Complex carbohydrates such as fruits and whole grains increase the ability of tryptophan to pass the blood brain barrier, raising levels of serotonin within the brain. 5 Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is the best tryptophan supplement. 

  • Vitamin B1, B3, Folic Acid and Zinc are required to produce serotonin in the body. 
  • Vitamin B12 contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and normal energy yielding metabolism. It also contributes to normal psychological function which may boost mood. 
  • Vitamin D has a role in the process of cell division, so is thought to aid the development of the nervous system. Vitamin D receptors in the brain are found in the same area of the brain related to mood. Nearly everyone is deficient in Vitamin D due to a lack of sunlight exposure.  
  • Omega 3 contains EPA and DHA which contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function. 
  • A Multivitamin should be taken for general health and to minimise the risk of deficiencies and can be beneficial for improved energy and a reduction in tiredness (11). 



Related Articles




  1. Physical activity and sleep quality in relation to mental health among college students - PubMed (nih.gov)
  2. Mental illness associated with poor sleep quality, according to large study -- ScienceDaily
  3. Sleep keeps teens on track for good mental health -- ScienceDaily
  4. Poor sleep significantly linked with teenage depression: Depression group slept 30 minutes less per night than other groups in study -- ScienceDaily
  5. Less than five hours' sleep a night linked to higher risk of multiple diseases -- ScienceDaily
  6. Children's mental health is affected by sleep duration -- ScienceDaily
  7. How to Improve Mood & Emotional Health | FULL HEALTH SECRETS

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