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How Bad Sleep Affects the Brain

If you have a bad night’s sleep, you might feel foggy and unfocused the next day. But does the issue go deeper than that? Could bad sleep affect the brain?
A large UK study analysed the impact of sleep deprivation on the mental health of 3,700 university students, who said they had sleep troubles.
The students were split into two groups: one was given six sessions of online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help enhance their sleep, while the other was given traditional advice.
The results after 10 weeks? The CBT group had halved their rates of insomnia – and reported improvements in anxiety and depression.
What does this mean? According to Dr Michael Mosley, “It strongly suggests that insomnia can cause mental health problems rather than simply be a consequence of them.”

Why is sleep linked to mental illness?

"We have more negative thoughts when we're sleep-deprived and we get stuck in them," said Daniel Freeman from Oxford University, who led the study.
That’s not to say that skipping sleep for a few nights will cause mental illness:
“In any one night, one in three people is having difficulty sleeping, perhaps 5% to 10% of the general population has insomnia, and many people get on with their lives and they cope with it. But it does raise the risk of a whole range of mental health difficulties."
If you’re concerned about how poor sleep affects your mental or physical health, consider speaking with a health professional or counsellor.

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