Do you need more sleep if you have a mental health condition?

It would be awesome to be able to teleport — it would save me a lot on gas, and I could travel the world in the blink of the eye. But when I think about what superpower I would want most, my first thought is something more boring. It's a "superpower" that a lot of people already have — the ability to function on little sleep.

After the holidays, it’s been hard for me to get my sleep schedule back on track. Last night, I got five hours of sleep — staying up until 1 a.m. and waking up a little after 6 a.m. with my body wide awake (my brain was a different story). For some of you, that's probably just a normal day. But, for me, even after two big ol' cups of coffee, I felt physically and mentally drained. 

My fiancé can function on little sleep. A lot of people I know can function on little sleep. But me — I am not one of them, even though I wish I was. Just think of all the things I could accomplish if I could survive on four to five hours, instead of my required eight hours of sleep a night. 

And, it made me think – does someone with a mental health condition, like my anxiety disorder, need more sleep than someone without it? 

According to a 2019 study in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, sleep loss is linked to impaired medial prefrontal cortex activity. The study shows that the deep phase of sleep is a natural anxiety reliever while a sleepless night is shown to raise anxiety levels by 30%.  

For those of us who already have an abnormal prefrontal cortex thanks to a mental illness, it’s no wonder that a lack of sleep affects us even more than our neurotypical friends. Even moderate reductions in sleep from night-to-night can result in significant day-to-day increases in anxiety. 

According to an article on, one of the first pieces of advice a therapist should give to a client suffering from anxiety or depression is this: “Go home and commit to getting eight hours of sleep every night this week." 

The article states, “The amount of sleep a person gets influences symptoms stemming from mental disorders. For example, disrupted sleep can trigger agitation and hyperactivity in people with manic depression. Even in otherwise healthy people, extreme sleep deprivation can lead to what seems to be a psychotic state of paranoia and hallucinations.”

There are many health benefits that come from committing to seven to nine hours of sleep each night. I’ve already talked about how it can reduce stress. Sleep also helps boost your immune system, strengthen your heart, prevent weight gain, improve memory, and increase productivity. 

So, what have we learned today? I've learned that, instead of wishing I could have the sleeping habits of a vampire in “Twilight,” I need to view sleep as a form of self-care. It’s not a waste of time; in fact, sleep helps keep you alive. 

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. Check out this guide to healthy sleep from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

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