Targeting mental health through improved sleep

To acknowledge Mental Health Week (9-17 October 2021) the Sleep Health Foundation is highlighting the strong links between sleeping well and having good mental health.

These links can be explored across three different aspects.

  1. The launch of its latest Fact Sheet ‘Mental Health and Sleep’ on Thursday 14 October 2021.
  1. The Foundation also has assembled a group of leading researchers who have published seven Australian studies into sleep and mental health (all in peer-reviewed journals in 2021), and who are available for interview. These studies cover:
  • Associations between sleep and mental health
  • Depression and its links to insomnia
  • Sleep disturbances in those with common mental health conditions such as:
    • Sleep and mental health during covid-19
    • Adolescents, homeschooling, sleep, circadian rhythms and mental health
    • Sleep and mental health in Sudanese refugees
    • Work, mental health and sleep

Note: see pages 3-5 for key take home messages from each study

  1. A person with lived experience of sleep disruption and mental health available for interview. Dr Emma* is a medical professional whose irregular and insufficient sleep caused by shiftwork, mixed together with the stress of studying, severely impacted her mental health. “People can appear to be functioning normally on the outside despite significant sleep issues and high stress, however their mental health can be deteriorating. At my lowest point, I was experiencing suicidal ideation, which prompted me to seek psychological support. I also implemented strategies to protect my sleep such as reducing my workload and scheduling downtime. By prioritising my sleep, I am now better equipped to handle stress and have found my mental health has improved,” she said.

Mental health problems and sleep problems can be two sides of the same coin

Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, Professor Shantha Rajaratnam said, “Mental health problems and sleep problems can be seen as two sides of the same coin, if you see one, the other often exists on the other side - which may be hidden or unrecognised. It is often asked which comes first the emotional/mental health problems or the sleep problems? We now know that disturbances with sleep and mental health can interact in either direction. The good news is that improving sleep will often reduce the severity of mental health problems.”

There is now a push to treat both sleep problems and mental health problems simultaneously.  There are effective, evidence-based ways to improve your sleep and these should be part of any treatment plan to help mental health where sleep is poor.

2021 Studies into sleep and mental health – Key Take Home Messages

Mental Health and Sleep

Important things to note about mental health and sleep

  • Problems with sleep and mental health interact in both directions
  • Sleep disturbances can be a risk for later mental health problems
  • People with poor mental health are typically poor sleepers
  • Improving sleep will often help mental health
  • Improving sleep may prevent mental ill-health relapses
  • Sleep problems and mental health problems can be treated at the same time
  • Cost-effective treatments that improve sleep disturbances and sleep disorders are available

About the Sleep Health Foundation

The Sleep Health Foundation is Australia’s leading advocate for healthy sleep. It aims to improve people’s lives by promoting sleep, advocacy and raising awareness of sleep disorders. For more information and resources such as fact sheets, and sleep tips available for individuals who are wanting to improve their sleep and health visit

The Foundation is a not for profit organisation.

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact: Dr Moira Junge

*First name has been changed and surname withheld for professional reasons