Guest Post: The Brain Benefits of a Full Night's Sleep

Our friends over at The Sleep Help Institute  were kind enough to offer some insight on how sleep can impact our overall well-being and mental health. They offer a wide variety of resources to help the quality of sleep from their team of specialized experts. For more information and helpful sleep guides, check out sleephelp.org.


When you don't get enough sleep, you feel tired the next day. You may feel exhausted or sluggish. But sleep deprivation doesn't just affect you physically; you can struggle mentally as well.

Sleep and Your Emotions

Insomnia can be a problem for people who have depression and anxiety, and depression and anxiety can make insomnia worse. In a review of sleep studies, researchers found that poor sleep quality seems to correlate with high negative emotions as well as low positive emotions. Good sleep is associated with high positive emotions. However, good sleep is not necessarily correlated with low negative emotions.

Daytime events, especially emotionally stressful events, can have a negative impact on your sleep quality. When you're stressed, you may experience an exaggerated startle response, decreased dream recall, and sleep disruptions.

Additionally, the quality and quantity of sleep you get at night can influence how well you react to stressful events in the day. When you're sleep deprived, you're more sensitive to emotions and stress.

When you're sleep deprived, you may find it difficult to express your emotions and recognize emotions in others. Sleep deprivation increases emotional reactivity, which can have an impact on social interactions.

Sleep and Cognitive Performance

Poor sleep affects more than your emotions: it can have a negative influence on your cognitive performance as well. Total and chronic partial sleep deprivation has a negative effect on working memory and attention. Total sleep deprivation can impair other cognitive functions as well, and higher cognitive functions may be affected by partial sleep deprivation.

Overall, mental effects of sleeplessness can include:

  • Lower alertness

  • Lower concentration

  • Difficulty focusing and paying attention

  • Lessened logical reasoning ability

  • Impaired judgment

  • Forgetfulness

  • Difficulty consolidating memories

  • Hyperactivity

  • Slowed reaction time

  • Increased irritability and anger

  • Lowered ability to cope with stress

  • Greater risk of depression

Improving Sleep and Brain Function

If sleep deprivation is causing difficulties with your emotions or cognitive performance, there's hope. You can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep with healthy sleep habits:

  • Meditate and relax. Before you go to sleep at night, spend about 20 minutes meditating. Focus on a word or phrase as you let stressful thoughts go. You can practice counting meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation as well, or try combining yoga and meditation.

  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, so you're going to bed and waking up at the same time each night and day and going through the same few steps just before bed. Avoid sleep pitfalls that can interfere with sleep quality, such as consuming caffeine too late in the day, heavy meals at night, or exercising vigorously before bed. Make sure to stop screen time at least one hour before bed.

  • Sleep in a healthy environment. Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by ensuring it's cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Use white noise and blackout curtains if needed. A traditional innerspring mattress may work well for people who tend to sleep hot or enjoy bouncy beds.

  • Get treatment for sleep disorders. If you're plagued by insomnia, sleep apnea, or another sleep disorder, you don't have to live life sleep deprived. Talk to your doctor about treatment options so you can sleep better at night.

Lindsey Bandy