What does sleep have to do with mental health?
This year marks 30 years since World Mental Health Day was established as an international UN day, with the aim of promoting awareness of mental health. What does sleep have to do with mental health?
A two-way street
Most of us are probably aware that it is extra difficult to get up when you have had a bad night's sleep. The mood is affected, the body feels more tired and fatigued, and the choices we make throughout the day are often affected by this. After all, there is a reason why it is said that one "woke up on the wrong side of the bed". It turns out that there is a lot of truth in that statement.
Sleep is linked to mental and emotional health, and to psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.We are still researching the connection between mental health and sleep, but the findings to date point to a two-way street. Mental disorders tend to make it more difficult to sleep well. At the same time, poor sleep, including insomnia, can be a contributing factor to the onset and worsening of psychological problems.
Sleep and mental health are both complex problems that are affected by a number of factors, but the connection between these gives reason to believe that improving sleep can have a positive impact on mental health and is important for the prevention and treatment of mental disorders.
What is the connection between mental health and sleep?
Brain activity fluctuates during sleep, increasing and decreasing during different sleep stages that make up the sleep cycle. During REM sleep, brain activity picks up, and is the stage associated with more intense dreaming.
Adequate sleep - and especially REM sleep (dream sleep) - facilitates the brain's processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works with thoughts and memories. Good sleep strengthens positive emotional content. Poor sleep therefore makes us more susceptible to mental disorders and their severity; Unfortunately also including the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviour. In other words, sleep can be both a cause and a consequence of psychological problems.
Anita Sjåvik, psykiatrisk sykepleier avd. Depressive lidelser
We sleep worse when we are depressed, and we are more often depressed when we sleep poorly.
How to improve sleep and strengthen your mental health?
Mental disorders are not a quick fix, but there are small adjustments you can make to prevent or improve the situation you are in, including through sleep. We are all different, so preventing treatment of the individual's mental health and sleep problems is, of course, individual.
A common cause of sleep problems is a poor sleep routine. Improving your sleep routine through good habits and a bedroom setting that promotes sleep can help reduce sleep disturbances.
Good sleep routines
- Have a fixed bedtime and maintain a consistent sleep routine
- Find ways to relax, such as relaxation techniques before bed
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine in the afternoon/evening
- Dim lights and put away electronic devices for one hour or more before bedtime
- Get regular exercise and exposure to natural light during the day
- Maximize comfort and support from the mattress, pillows and bedding
- Avoid excess light and noise that can disturb sleep
If you want help or advice regarding mental health, we recommend that you contact a healthcare professional to find the best possible solution for you. Among other things, Mental Health offers a free, 24-hour helpline for those who need someone to talk to, completely anonymously.
Mental Health Helpline: 116 123
Mental Helse. Verdensdagen for psykisk helse. 2022.
Mental Helse. Hjelpetelefonen.
Sleep Foundation: Mental Health and Sleep. 2022.
Modum Bad. Å sove gjør oss godt! 2019.