Lack of sleep can actually lead to anxiety and depression

A man has just woken up from sleep in a domestic environment, either a living room or a bedroom. He is cozy in duvets and pillows. He rubs his eyes and face sleepily as he comes to.
Sleep loss can have a detrimental impact to emotional health, a study has found. (Getty Images)

We all know that a good night’s sleep can make us feel more energised and ready for the day, but did you know that a lack of sleep can have severe impacts on your mental health?

According to a new study, sleep loss can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression, along with impacting our emotional functioning, and it can reduce positive moods.

Their study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, collated more than 50 years of research on sleep deprivation and mood.

“In our largely sleep-deprived society, quantifying the effects of sleep loss on emotion is critical for promoting psychological health,” study lead author, Dr Cara Palmer, of Montana State University in the US, said.

“This study represents the most comprehensive synthesis of experimental sleep and emotion research to date, and provides strong evidence that periods of extended wakefulness, shortened sleep duration and night-time awakenings adversely influence human emotional functioning.”

Sad and lonely girl in bedroom. Insomnia and psychological issues. Breakup with boyfriend. Conceptual of bad condition of broken hearted, sadness, loneliness or depress woman.
One in six Brits are having less than six hours of sleep per night. (Getty Images)
Some 36% of Brits suffered from sleep disorders in the last 12 months. (Statista)

One YouGov survey from 2020 found that most Brits are getting less than eight hours of sleep per night, with one in six adults getting less than six hours of sleep per night.

The NHS recommends that adults have between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, and that people who don’t regularly get enough sleep can see it affect their relationships, social life, and their ability to do daily tasks.

Dr Palmer and her colleagues, including co-lead author Dr Joanne Bower, of East Anglia University, analysed data from 154 studies spanning five decades, involving more than 5,700 participants, the majority of whom were young adults, with an average age of 23.

In all the studies, researchers disrupted participants’ sleep for one or more nights.

Ultimately, researchers found that every kind of sleep loss resulted in fewer positive emotions such as joy, happiness and contentment among participants, as well as increased anxiety symptoms such as a rapid heart rate and increased worrying.

Watch: Yahoo's Expert Guide to Sleep: 18 months - 4 years

“This occurred even after short periods of sleep loss, like staying up an hour or two later than usual or after losing just a few of hours of sleep,” Dr Palmer added. “We also found that sleep loss increased anxiety symptoms and blunted arousal in response to emotional stimuli.

“Research has found that more than 30% of adults and up to 90% of teens don’t get enough sleep. The implications of this research for individual and public health are considerable in a largely sleep-deprived society.”

Mental health charity Mind says people who don’t get enough sleep are also more likely to have psychotic episodes, more likely to feel lonely and isolated, and more likely to feel irritated and have little energy to do things.

The NHS says some of its best tips for getting both better quality and more quantity of sleep include having a good bedtime routine, building in time in the evening to relax, practicing mindfulness, and creating the right environment to sleep.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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