According to the Mental Health Foundation, we cannot function effectively without sleep - it helps to repair and restore our brains and bodies, and is vital for maintaining good mental health. The occasional night without sleep causes no lasting damage. However, ongoing insomnia or sleep disturbance can lead to tiredness, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

Tips to help you develop a regular sleeping pattern

  • Keep active
    Get regular exercise but try to avoid exercise in the hour before bed time.

  • Avoid stimulants
    Avoid tea and coffee, or foods high in sugar, in the evenings.

  • Wind down
    Have a bedtime routine and wind down time before going to bed. Turn off all technology and do something restful such as gentle stretches or taking a warm bath.

  • Routine
    Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

  • No naps
    If possible, avoid naps during the day.

  • Get comfy
    Your bedroom should be a comfortable temperature. If it is too hot or too cold, it may make it more difficult for you to sleep.

  • Find a good book
    Reading in bed can focus your mind and empty it of the day’s worries.

  • Relax
    Try to relax with deep breathing exercises when in bed. The smell of lavender oil also helps with relaxation – try sprinkling a few drops on your pillow. ReachOut.com provides relaxation exercises that help you learn techniques for managing stress. And Suicide or Survive offer a free 'Softly to Sleep' 13 minute meditation track for download at their website.  

How sleep can affect your mental health

If you’re struggling to sleep over a long period of time, this may lead to more challenges to your mental health, or it may make existing mental health challenges worse. Here are some ways that this might happen:

  • Being tired makes it harder to cope
    Everyday life becomes a much greater challenge when you're tired. Over time, this can affect your self-esteem and mental health.

  • You may become lonely
    Feeling more tired may cause you to skip on going out and other social activities, meaning you might see less people. Becoming isolated can lead to mental health problems.

  • Your mood might be lower
    Sleep deprivation (lack of sleep) may impact your mood and energy level. Regular poor sleep could impact your mood negatively in different ways which could increase negative thinking cycles.

How mental health problems can affect your sleep

If you’re going through problems with your mental health, such as stress, depression or anxiety, this can make it harder to sleep.

  • Depression can make it more difficult to cope with daily tasks. This may result in you over-sleeping to avoid these activities, which may make it harder to sleep at night.

  • If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you may be more prone to disturbed sleep or nightmares.

  • Some medication may cause sleep disturbances. It is important to let your doctor know if your medication keeps you awake or makes you too sleepy.

How much sleep is a good night's sleep?

Check out this blog from ReachOut.com about how much sleep we need (it's different depending on your age!) and the benefits of good rest.

Ongoing sleep problems?

Long-term lack of sleep can either be a cause or a result of a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety. If insomnia or sleep disturbance causes problems in your life, talk to your G.P. You can find more information about sleep disorders here.

#ZZZ challenge

Try our 14 day sleep challenge to help improve your sleep. You can find the #ZZZ challenge resources here.

Useful resources

ReachOut.com, provides useful articles and podcasts about getting a good night's sleep:

And relaxation tips for anyone with exams:

 SpunOut.ie also provides lots of helpful information on improving your sleep:

Some content provided by SpunOut.ie and adapted for YourMentalHealth.ie by the National Office for Suicide Prevention. Find out more about our content partnerships.