Sleep and Mental Health

Sleep has a strong influence on the way we perform everyday tasks both physically and mentally, but most of us don’t really know if we are really sleeping well. In fact, we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping.

A good sleep is different for everyone.  Generally the optimal number of hours’ sleep you should get each night is between seven to nine hours.  

The result of poor sleep can cause fatigue, lack of focus and even a short temper.  One bad nights’ sleep is harmless; when you have continuous nights of poor sleep, it can become more serious and contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

In 2005 a Sleep in America Poll showed people with anxiety and depression were more likely to sleep less than six hours each night, while a study in 2007 showed people with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without. 

Insomnia, anxiety and depression are the most common problems related to sleep, however poor sleep habits are also associated with bipolar disorder and psychosis which may cause excessive sleep or the need for very little sleep.

“Sleep problems, in their own right, require specific assessment and treatment which can at times be immersed with other disorders and is a paradigm shift that is now acknowledged in the medical field” said Mirella Timi, Mentis Assist Psychologist


Insomnia increases the symptoms of mental illness. Abnormal sleep patterns or excessive sleepiness, can also be an early sign of schizophrenia, and is a common complaint for people suffering from anxiety and depression.

Insomnia reduces quality of life, cognitive function, and can affect your overall health. People with chronic insomnia are four times as likely to experience major depression and are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder or substance abuse problem.

Sleep and Psychosis

Sleep is often irregular for people with psychosis. They may feel sleepy at any time of the day or night and for any amount of time, unlike the seven to eight hours overnight like most people.

Hours of sleep for these people may be too few or too many and can be a result of the drugs being used to treat the psychosis.  This can also be due to the lack of a regular daytime routine which helps our bodies know when to sleep and when to wake up.

It can also be hard for people with psychosis to get to sleep or even stay asleep because of their psychotic symptoms which in turn cause fear or anxiety.



Bipolar can also affect sleep in many ways and may lead to insomnia, over-sleeping, a reduced need for sleep, sleep abnormalities making dreams very vivid or bizarre, irregular sleep patterns, sleep apnea and even drug addictions.

People with Bipolar can sometimes go for days without sleep during a high and not feel tired.  For many, sleep problems are the most common signal that a period of mania is about to occur.   During this time, the person with bipolar may not notice a difference, however their behaviour may change and become extremely moody, feel sick, tired, depressed or worried and have trouble concentrating.

How to get a better sleep

Follow these six simple steps for a better sleep:

  • Set up a regular sleep pattern which is essential to improving sleep
  • Don’t use any stimulants such as cigarettes or caffeine before bedtime
  • Exercising during the day
  • Eat well
  • Create a dark quiet place for sleep
  • Remove electronic equipment such as mobile phones, computers, etc. from the room


Benefits of a good nights’ sleep

Why you need a good night’s sleep

  • Prevents depression
  • Reduces symptoms of ADHD
  • Improves memory
  • Improves cognitive behaviour
  • Creates creativity and problem-solving

If you know of someone who has trouble sleeping, contact your GP.

For more information about mental health and the services Mentis Assist can provide or call 1300 MENTIS (1300 636 847).