How important is sleep?

How important is sleep?

Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul Habits #3

I thought I should get back to my healthy habits series this week, and take on sleep. Since I’m having so much trouble in the area, and have off and on, mostly on, since December.

I love sleep. Except when I don’t. And it frequently doesn’t like me. Such a fickle friend!

Sleep... I miss you, my fickle friend. Click To Tweet

You know those nights when you just don’t sleep well, when you wake up and can’t stop thinking about all the things you didn’t get done, or need to do, or didn’t do well enough, things you have no control over, things you should’ve taken more control over, the time your second-grade substitute made you cry (maybe that’s just me), the phone call you forgot to make or maybe put off long enough so you forgot and really should make sure you make it in the morning but you really don’t want to because sometimes having to make a phone call makes you so anxious you want to cry, and all the other things you really should get done in the morning, and that make you feel insufficient… it’s exhausting.

And then as the sun comes up, or it’s like ten minutes from when your alarm will go off, your brain finally spins itself out and the alarm goes off and instead of snoozing it you just turn it off and sleep until the kids wake you up so you’re starting off behind and on the wrong foot, but your brain “let” you sleep because instead of harassing you when there’s nothing you can do about all that’s weighing on it, it’s time to take them on and it shuts down because it just. doesn’t. want. to deal with it all.

While sleep is a fickle friend, my brain can become my enemy. Aside from the above, it’s also responsible for the bad dreams and the dreams that are just plain tiring, as it tries to bring order to all those things it’s too overwhelmed to work through while it’s awake.


How important is sleep to mental health?

It’s BIG…

We all know that sleep is important. But it’s more important than most of us are willing to admit.

Sleep is more important than you might think. Click To Tweet

Did you know that lack of sleep can actually change the way parts of your brain communicate with each other, so you react more strongly to emotional stimuli? Typically, our amygdala, which processes emotion, communicates with an area of our prefrontal cortex, which helps us evaluate what we’re feeling and doing. When we’re sleep-deprived, not only does our amygdala send out way more messages when it’s aroused by something unpleasant, it sends that amped-up energy to an area of our unsophisticated brain stem that secretes norepinephrine, which basically preps us for a fight-or-flight response.

So, yes, anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. And lack of sleep can worsen anxiety. Which can make it more difficult to sleep, which makes it more likely that more situations will make us more anxious, which can impact our sleep, which…

You get the picture…

According to NAMI, poor sleep exacerbates the symptoms of many mental health issues, and can decrease the effectiveness of treatments. “All of the scientific data shows the connection between medical and mental illnesses: good sleep is necessary for recovery—or prevention—in both types of conditions (Sleep Disorders: The Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health).

Summarizing various studies, Harvard Medical School states, “Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” While it’s logical to think these disorders cause insomnia, there’s growing evidence that trouble sleeping raises adults and children’s susceptibility, and in some cases directly contributes, to developing these disorders.

People who get insufficient sleep are more likely to develop depression. Depressed individuals who continue to suffer insomnia are less likely to respond to treatment. If antidepressants alleviate their depression, people suffering insomnia are more likely to relapse. Here’s something else people like me need to consider:

“Depressed patients who experience sleep disturbances are more likely to think about suicide and die by suicide than depressed patients who are able to sleep normally.”

Harvard Mental Health Letter

Yes, sleep is important.

…even when it’s little

So… lately, whenever I try to type more than a paragraph or two, and no one is interrupting me every few minutes (or sitting next to me making random comments, or reciting the alphabet, or asking questions about the cat, or talking about Minecraft, or singing random lyrics with her face in the bucket she has in case she pukes because she likes the way it makes her voice sound) I find myself dozing off. Words, thoughts, words. White space… Thoughts… nooothinngg… SNAP.

It’s called microsleep. And, basically, it happens when the brain just can’t stay awake any longer and shuts down. While I may end up with a long line or paragraph of ddddddddddddddddddddddd or some such while I’m typing, the consequences could be much worse if it happens while I’m driving. Which it has… Did I mention the fact that I stopped driving more than a few miles for a while? That can be impractical.

Bringing it home

I need to take responsibility for my mental health. Part of that is getting enough sleep. Click To Tweet

I’ve been thinking I may need to talk to my psychiatrist about a med adjustment/change, as I’m getting really tired of the cognitive issues, which are getting worse. I don’t particularly enjoy thinking one word and typing another.


I need to get back to really taking responsibility for my health.

And I really, really, really need to get more sleep. Before I post complete gibberish or smash my car into some unsuspecting telephone pole or old lady. And by car I mean SUV. And by SUV I mean a big one with third-row seating.

So, next post: Ways to improve sleep. The more practical the better. And if this post isn’t motivation enough for me to take the advice I’ll be writing about, I better get my head on straight(er) and do what needs to be done to give my brain the best chance possible.


Having trouble sleeping? Check out these Ten Tips for Better Sleep.


Learn more:

Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Psychiatric Disorders?, Scientific American

Sleep Disorders: The Connection Between Sleep and Mental Health, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Sleep and Mental Health, Harvard Mental Health Letter

What’s Happening In Your Brain During ‘Microsleep’, Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post


Did you like this post? Check out more of my Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul Habits series!

Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul Habits

6 thoughts on “How important is sleep?

  1. Lack of sleep causes physical issues too. I have several chronic illnesses some of which cause pain. The pain is worse with insomnia. I have had insomnia for 17yrs. I have brain fog from peri menopause, insomnia and from some of my other chronic illnesses. I also have brain fog from a few other of my chronic illnesses and from years of financial issues. I just came off of a full year with no income after my dh lost his job. That doesn’t help either. In fact, I found that depression and sleep are connected as well and it is worse if you can’t sleep and have a lack of vitamins in your body. Everything is interconnected (your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health) and a lack of sleep makes it all worse.

    • Yes! This series is about Healthy Body, Mind, and Soul Habits for mental health because too often we compartmentalize, focusing on one area of health without considering how each affects the others. To keep myself as far as possible from the edge of severe depression I need to be more conscientious in all areas. This series is an effort to encourage myself and others to take more responsibility for our health. It sounds like you have had a rough go of it. And I can’t imagine how much more difficult 17 years of insomnia would make it! Prayers.

  2. Wow, how interesting! Can’t wait to read the post on how to improve sleep! I was just telling my husband last night that I shouldn’t wake up exhausted every morning. That’s not normal. And then when I rolled out of bed at 5:00 this morning I thought to myself how I should’ve just stayed up all night and gotten some work done because I slept HORRIBLY last night. Blah.

    • If only I were better at following the advice! It may sound extreme, but if you are consistently waking up tired, you should consider being tested for sleep apnea.

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