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How is Your Sleep Health Linked to Your Mental Health?

Hint: There’s a BIG connection between sleep and emotional well-being

Sleep is a critical part of your overall health. And the quality and quantity of your sleep are deeply connected to your mental and emotional well-being.

During sleep, the body and mind go through various restorative processes, including repairing and rejuvenating cells, consolidating memories, processing emotions, and cleansing toxins from the brain. Good sleep can help you regulate your emotions better as well as improve cognitive skills like learning and attention.

Our sleep and our minds are interlinked.

When we don’t get enough of the quality sleep we need for our bodies to function at its best, it can affect our mental health, too. Poor sleep can make it harder to cope with daily stress. We may be more impacted by minor negative things and less likely to notice the positive parts of our day.

Think about the last time you didn’t sleep your best. Did you feel irritable or short-tempered? It’s likely that you had trouble dealing with emotions that arose from minor challenges. Maybe you noticed that it was easier to slip into feelings of stress, worry or anxiety. And, getting too little or poor-quality sleep, for even a few nights a week, is associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel: when we sleep well, we are recharged and ready to face the day. Following good sleep, we tend to cope better, process information in a more balanced fashion, and have a brighter outlook on life.

2023 Sleep in America® Poll Findings

For our 2023 Sleep in America® Poll, we wanted to learn more about how the nation’s sleep and mental health are linked. The results made it clear that American adults with healthier sleep habits are less likely to experience significant depressive symptoms. Read on to see our findings.

  • Over 90% of American adults with very good overall sleep health say they have no significant depressive symptoms.
  • Almost 7 in 10 Americans (65%) who are dissatisfied with their sleep also experience mild or greater levels of depressive symptoms.
  • People with difficulties falling or staying asleep just 2 nights a week have higher levels of depressive symptoms than those without sleep difficulties.
  • In adults who get less than the NSF’s recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, over half experience mild or greater levels of depressive symptoms.

Mental Health Can Affect Your Sleep Health, Too

Just as sleep can affect our mental well-being, those dealing with mental health issues often experience problems with their sleep. In fact, the two often go hand in hand; depression can lead to sleep problems, and sleep problems can worsen depressive symptoms.

Experiencing depression can result in us sleeping poorly, spending more time lying awake in bed for longer hours, being less physically active and getting less exposure to bright daylight–all of which can result in disrupted sleep.

By understanding the connection between sleep and mental health, you can start taking steps to improve your sleep health and your emotional well-being.

The good news: Being Your Best Slept Self® Can Help Reduce Your Risk of Experiencing Elevated Depressive Symptoms

The association between sleep and mental health is clear. By getting the deep, restorative sleep you need, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing poor emotional well-being. So, your sleep should be an important part of your approach to mental wellness.

Think about the last time you woke up after a great night of sleep—you might have noticed your mood was also quite positive. By practicing healthy sleep habits and making it a goal to be your Best Slept Self®, you can experience that recharged feeling more often, which can also help give your mental health a boost.

Your Best Slept Self®: Small Steps Toward a Big Difference

Your Best Slept Self is a renewed you after taking small steps each day and night that make a big difference in your sleep health. Practice these steps that are linked to both good sleep and mental health.


Spend time in bright light during the day, natural light, or equivalent brightness. Get a healthy amount of exposure to bright light during the morning.


Exercise regularly for a deeper sleep. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.


Eat your meals at consistent times day after day.


Things to stay away from before bedtime include heavy meals, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.


Use a consistent routine with a relaxing wind-down to help get the sleep you need each night (7–9 hours for most adults, with the same sleep and wake times).


Put your devices away an hour before bed and sleep in a quiet, cool, dark environment.

See How Being Your Best Slept Self® Can Help

By making sleep a priority and by practicing the steps to be your Best Slept Self, you can help promote optimal brain health, emotional well-being, and your overall health.

In our 2023 Sleep in America Poll, we saw clear associations between the healthy sleep habits outlined by the NSF’s Best Slept Self behaviors and mental health.

We saw that Americans who practice healthy sleep behaviors both night and day are sleeping better than those who don’t. And we also learned more about the link between these healthy sleep behaviors and mental health.

Best Slept Self in Practice

Almost 3 out of 4 adults who practice high levels of healthy sleep behaviors like NSF’s Best Slept Self recommendations also enjoy above-average sleep health.

Best Slept Self and Depressive Symptoms

Over 90% of Americans who earned an ‘A’ for their engagement in healthy sleep behaviors have no significant depressive symptoms.

If you’re not getting the sleep you need, it could negatively affect your mental health.

If you are still struggling with your sleep or mental health, it might be time to talk to a doctor.

Sleep health is critical for our mental and physical well-being, so it’s important to make sleep a priority. If you have specific symptoms or continue to be concerned about not getting the sleep you need after taking some basic steps, it’s a good idea to seek professional help from a clinician.

That’s especially true if you are experiencing changes in your mood or feelings of depression. These feelings can be common among people suffering from poor sleep health, and you’re not alone. By seeking help, you are taking another step to improving your sleep health, your mental well-being, and your overall health.

For anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.