How Poor Sleep Impacts Mental Functioning

How Sleep Impacts You Mentally

Good quality and quantity of sleep are necessary to maintain mental functioning, particularly cognitive. You may have noticed that when you have difficulty staying and/or falling asleep, the next day you may not be on your “A-game”. A night of inadequate sleep can happen from time to time, and this is not something to be alarmed about; however seek assistance if you find that your difficulties sleeping are interfering with your quality of life (for example, mood, memory, concentration). Very few people can function efficiently without seven to eight hours of sleep per 24 hour period.

Potential Impact of Poor Sleep

There are multiple areas of physiological and psychological health that inadequate sleep has on humans. Research has revealed a connection with poor cognitive performance (Weir, 2017; Carney and Manber, 2015). Real world examples of this could include, performing below par on a test or exam, having a “loss for words” or “mind going blank”, difficulty problem solving, difficulty calming oneself when upset, being more stressed, among other issues.

There is also an increased risk for other mood disorders and mental health disorders (Carney and Manber, 2015). Physical health can also be impacted. Lower quality of sleep has been linked to the inflammation response, which is connected with a higher mortality rate (Weir, 2017). There are also some indications that cancer, heart disease, and obesity, are correlated (Weir, 2017). There are of course other costs as well, such as a reduction in productivity.

Possible Causes of Poor Sleep

There are many psychological, physiological, and environmental issues that could cause poor sleep.

  • Psychological Issues – worrying about life issues, worrying about not sleeping well, depression, anxiety, as well as other mental health concerns.
  • Physiological Issues –  homeostatic imbalance from drinking too much caffeine, drinking alcohol, or using other drugs, like marijuana. Physical diseases and chronic pain can also impact sleep.
  • Environmental Issues – sleeping in a room that is not dark, noises, having animals or children in the bed, even having an alarm clock that displays the time will disrupt the ability to get back to sleep.

Can you recall a time that you looked at your alarm clock when you have to wake up for something? How did you feel?

Interventions for Poor Quality Sleep

There is evidence that Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) can help individuals experiencing these difficulties (Weir, 2017). Also, there may be a mental health issue that could be impacting your sleep; however a lack of sleep can also impact your ability to overcome some of these issues.

To find out more you can consult with your primary care practitioner, psychologist, or a practitioner that practices psychotherapy, like those at Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County.

Happy Sleeping!

About the Author

Today’s blog is from CFSSC Counsellor Royce Tucker, M.C. Counselling Psychology., RP., C.C.C.


Carney, C.E., & Manber, R. (2015). Treatment Plans and Interventions for Insomnia. New York, New York: The Guliford Press.

Weir, K. (2017). The Power of Restorative Sleep: New Research Uncovers the Connections Between Sleeping Well and Staying Healthy as we Age. Monitor on Psychology, 48(3), 38-43.