how does sleep improve our mental health?

Better sleep - like better mental health - is a basic right and sleep and mental health are strongly linked. Here we explore how you can boost your mood with better sleep.

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Poor mental health leads to poor sleep and poor sleep can cause poor mental health. This is true both of adults and children. 

In adults, poor sleep is related to depression, anxiety and stress. In children, many 'behavioural issues' have their root cause in poor sleep. 

In adolescents, poor sleep can lead them to have increased moodiness and irritability, poorer self-esteem, fewer friends and an increase in risky behaviours. 

“Mental health is a human right. We therefore need to make mental health a reality for all - for everyone, everywhere.”

Dr Ingrid Daniels

President, World Federation for Mental Health

Written by our partners at Sleepstation

There’s been an increasing focus on mental health during the past few years and not without good reason. In the UK, one in four people is likely to experience a mental health problem each year in England alone. However, the importance of sleep as a vital component of physical and mental health isn’t so widely discussed. 

Sleep is absolutely essential for your physical and mental wellbeing. When you get enough sleep, you wake feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day and when you don’t get enough your alertness, mood and productivity suffer. 

When we get enough good quality sleep, it can have a positive impact on our mood and overall wellbeing.  

but how much sleep per night do you need?  

Ask most people and they will likely put the figure at around eight hours. While this is a commonly-held belief and a good average, it is not necessarily correct; your sleep need is unique to you. 

The amount of sleep per night that an individual requires in order to be able to function optimally, without feeling tired, is their sleep need. 

Our individual sleep need may be anything from 5-11 hours and is determined by many factors, including age, genetics, sex, environment and lifestyle. 

“Helped me identify those issues and approaches in obtaining better sleep were most relevant to me and gave me guides to the way forward.”

comment from 'supercharge your sleep' course attendee


a simple test of your sleep need 

There are certain steps you can take to try to ensure that you're getting enough sleep. An easy first step is to be mindful of how you feel - if you're waking up refreshed and able to go about your day without feeling sleepy, chances are your sleep need is met. You're likely getting enough sleep for your needs. 

If you find yourself lacking in energy, not able to get out of bed in the morning and struggling with your day, you may not be getting the amount of sleep that is right for you. If this is the case for you, it's best to seek help to address the problem as soon as possible. 

If you’re not getting enough sleep, then prioritising your sleep may have the added benefit of boosting your mood.

depression can affect sleep and sleep can affect depression

Interestingly, when people seek treatment for poor sleep, many of them also exhibit symptoms consistent with depression. Conversely, people seeking treatment for depression will often complain of poor sleep, either in the form of sleeping too little or too much. 

Common symptoms include: 

  • taking a long time to fall asleep 
  • waking up frequently during the night 
  • lying awake for a large period of the time spent in bed 
  • not feeling refreshed after time asleep 

Lack of sleep can negatively affect our mood and those experiencing poor sleep can experience difficulty concentrating, lethargy and daytime tiredness, symptoms that those living with depression are all too familiar with.  

While the sleep that those with depression experience can be poor, that’s not to say that depression causes a lack of sleep. In fact, many people living with depression experience hypersomnia, the condition of sleeping too much. 

“It’s useful to know that it's beneficial to prioritise sleep, and to consider the most important areas to concentrate on when looking to improve sleep - particularly managing worries. Now I feel I understand the importance of these things.”

comment from 'supercharge your sleep' course attendee


improving your sleep can boost your mood 

Think about how one bad night’s sleep, or not enough sleep, makes you feel the next day. For many of us, we’re grumpy and irritable, we find it difficult to concentrate, and we have no energy. We can overreact when things don’t go our way, and we may find we’re less excited if something good happens. So, it’s easy to see how ongoing sleep problems can negatively affect our mood, but the good news is – it works the other way around too. 

You can boost your mood by prioritising your sleep. It’s important to get the foundations right to begin with: 

  • get up at approximately the same time each day 
  • get outside during daylight hours to expose yourself to natural light 
  • limit napping if you have insomnia 
  • reduce or cut out caffeine, nicotine and alcohol 
  • go to bed only when you’re sleepy  
  • exercise daily 
  • give yourself the time to wind down before bed 
  • aim to put the stresses of the day to rest before you get into bed 
  • sleep in bedroom that is cool, dark, comfortable and quiet 
  • use your bedroom only for sleep and intimacy 

A quiet mind is key to falling asleep. Anything that helps you achieve a quiet mind will help you sleep.  

Sleep is a very individual thing - if something helps you get to sleep and stay asleep then don't change it. What works for someone else may not work for you. Do whatever works for you.  

If you’re doing all these things already and you’re still not getting enough good quality sleep, then you may need further help. 

We’ve partnered with Sleepstation to provide free accessto their sleep support programme for chartered accountants, ICAEW staff and their families. Sleepstation combines psychology and sleep science with dedicated support to help you get the best sleep possible. 

Designed by doctors and backed by science, Sleepstation is a clinically proven solution to the most common sleep problems. Their online programme of sleep support can get you sleeping naturally again within weeks. 

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your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students. 

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
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    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

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