Sleep and Mental Illness

Sleep and mental illness are closely related. About 40 percent of patients who are seeking help for sleep disorders also struggle from some type of mental disorder, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health. In fact, of all patients dealing with psychiatric issues, only 20 percent have no type of sleep disorder.


Poor sleep is an enigma because it is both a cause and symptom of mental illness. People who struggle with ADHD, OCD, panic disorders, schizophrenia, and a number of other psychiatric disorders find that a lack of sleep and their mental disorder coexist. Insomnia is the most reported sleep disorder tied to mental illness. Those struggling with mental illness often report that even the sleep they get is not truly beneficial, as it is often accompanied by waking up throughout the night, waking up early or falling asleep late. Even worse, sufferers of insomnia struggle to fall into a REM induced sleep. Because REM sleep provides restoration for cognitive and emotional abilities, those who do not actively engage in REM sleep struggle with emotional balance.


The National Sleep Foundation recommends a number of ways to help improve bedtime, despite struggling due to stress or anxiety:


  • Set up a regular bedtime! Sleep is one of the most important things you will do in a day, so scheduling a bedtime that you can stick to will help make it a priority.
  • Shut off your phone and laptop to avoid blue lights, which can keep you awake and your brain active.
  • Watch out for caffeine. It’s a great tool in the morning, but give your body a 6- to

8-hour caffeine break before bed.

  • Don’t bring your daytime worries into bed with you. Try taking a soothing bath or meditating right before bed to help relieve stress.
  • Exercise. It relieves muscle tension and will also leave you with less energy at the end of the day. Avoid exercising right before bed, as it will cause you to be too alert.
  • Protect your bed space. Your bed isn’t the place to pay bills or finish work. This will help you associate your bed with sleep and relaxation. If you’re still struggling to fall asleep after about 20 minutes, move to the couch or take a walk. Your bed should only be for sleeping.


Sleep is important for your emotional, mental and physical well-being. Make sleep a priority in your life. If you are still having trouble sleeping, you may need to talk to your doctor about your sleep issues. Serious sleep problems can be prevented by a number of factors. Your sleep issues may be related to an underlying cause, such as a thyroid problem, or you may need prescription sleep medication to help you develop healthy habits. For serious cases of insomnia, cognitive-behavioral therapy may be needed.


If you are having trouble sleeping and believe mental illness may be an underlying cause, Havenwood provides a comfortable outpatient facility for adults who need mental health counseling. To learn more about the breadth of services at Havenwood Behavioral Health, visit call us at (864) 660-6217. With proper treatment and support, you can overcome mental illness.