Good Nights, Better Days—Sleep’s Relationship to Mental Health

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Sleep is as essential to our health as eating, drinking, and breathing. Though many of us are sleep-deprived, those of us with mental health conditions are more likely to feel the impact of less sleep—and sleep problems tend to affect upwards of 80% of patients in psychiatric practices.

How can we treat sleep disorders and mental health conditions? Are there ways to improve our quality of life through a good night’s sleep? And what can science show us about how our mental health is affected by how we’re sleeping?

Audience Questions

John Winkelman, MD, PhD, explains the relationship between sleep disorders and our brains, provides a look into the impact of our sleep cycles, and answers audience questions about sleep and mental health.

  • Can you provide some insight into the short- and long-term importance of getting a quality night’s sleep?
  • I’m curious about how often sleep disorders co-occur alongside mental health conditions. Which most commonly occur together? Are there factors, like age or gender, that contribute to them?
  • I never seem to be able to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time without waking up. Is this a common thing? Any suggestions for staying asleep for longer periods of time?
  • There’s a lot of advice out there, and I don’t know who to trust. If we are having trouble falling asleep, should we stay in bed or get up and do something?
  • How does CBT-I (CBT for insomnia) differ from traditional CBT?
  • A lot of young people are struggling with sleep. Is there a correlation with screen time? Are there other factors at play around sleep issues with people in this age range?
  • Are there any phone apps that have shown to be helpful with helping people fall to sleep?
  • How accurate are sleep trackers in our watches or other devices?
  • Do you have any recommendations for finding a CBT-I specialist?
  • How do we know if we need to seek out a sleep specialist?
  • Any good sleep resources that I can provide to my patients? Many struggle with sleep for a variety of reasons.
  • Can you talk about some of the difficulties encountered during menopause that are connected with sleep? What is the correlation, and what do you recommend to aid poor sleep during this time?
  • Please speak to the effects of caffeine on sleep. What are the best practices?
  • What is the best way to catch up on sleep when you’ve had a few bad nights?
  • Any advice to get started on resetting our sleep schedule? How do I retrain my body?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. John Winkelman

John Winkelman, MD, PhD, is a psychiatrist and chief of the Sleep Disorders Clinical Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Winkelman previously was medical director of the sleep program at McLean Hospital and subsequently medical director of the sleep laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has lectured in and directed national and international post-graduate medical education courses on sleep disorders.

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Originally aired on March 16, 2021