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Mental Health: what role does sleep play

Venus Ng


February 18, 2021

Sleep is the brain’s time to rest, recharge, and perform some spring cleaning by ridding neurotoxins that lead to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. It helps you recall the name of your new colleague (memory processing) and prevents you from raging out at the driver who stole your parking space (emotional processing).

In the long term, a lack of sleep has been proven to mentally harm you in myriad ways, including causing you to lose touch of reality. Dr. Steven Feinsilver, who directed the Center for Sleep Medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, shared an anecdote about a time he had to work through every other night for six straight weeks:


“The reason I know it was October was there was a pumpkin at the nursing station, and I hallucinated vividly the pumpkin was talking to me. It’s the only time I’ve ever hallucinated in my life. Ah, I thought, sleep deprivation resembles psychosis.”


The exact mechanisms of sleep disruption and mental health are complicated, but what science has shown is that sleep and mental health are intrinsically linked. Dr. Els van der Helm goes into further detail in her upcoming webinar on 15 October, 1230pm CET on "Sleep and Your Mental Health". In the meantime, we touch on some of the basics and three techniques that could help you sleep better today!

Shleep: sleep and mental health have a bi-directional relationship

Not getting enough sleep is a recognized risk factor for the development of mental health issues. A systematic review of research, for example, found that insomnia increases the risk of depression but also anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even suicide.

At the same time, sleep disruption is also a common feature of most mental conditions, including anxiety and depression!

Examples of mental health disorders
Taken from Sleep and Your Mental Health (1st Edition, May 2020)

Shleep: Sleep as a mental therapeutic

A good night of sleep, or extra sleep (e.g. a nap) can be regarded as a mental therapeutic, boosting our mental wellbeing. As Dr. Els van der Helm highlighted in her report on “Employee Wellbeing During COVID19”:


“A study found that that just one normal night of sleep “resets” the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, leading to lowered emotional reactivity the next day. Studies of naps have also found that after a nap, people report better mood and lower reactivity to previously exposed negative emotional facial expressions.”

Shleep: Top techniques to boost sleep

Being aware of your quality of sleep and educating yourself are important steps to taketowards improving sleep, and you can do just that in our upcoming webinar on Sleep and Your Mental Health. Top takeaways include:

Sleep challenges in today’s climate
- Sleep as a solution to poor mental health
- Turning your home office into a space for "flow"
- Expert tips to improve your wellbeing and sleep while working from home and the office

In the meantime, you can start by adopting one of the three below techniques that could help you sleep better, and feel better:

Ø  Control stimulus at bedtime such as not using digital devices

Ø  Relax by doing breathing exercises before bedtime

Ø  Cognitive offload and put the day to rest by writing your to-do list for the next day.

Want more? Join Dr. Els van der Helm in her upcoming webinar by clicking on the banner below.

Shleep: Sleep and your mental health webinar

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