Is Insomnia Putting You in a Bad Mood?

A lack of sleep can make us all feel cranky and short-tempered. This is called irritability, which you may describe as just a bad mood. For people with chronic sleep problems like insomnia, irritability is a common symptom. Research shows that there is often a link between irritability and depression for people with insomnia.1

What is irritability?

Irritability is a feeling of anger or frustration, often over small things. When you feel irritable, you may describe it as “crankiness” or a “bad mood.” Everyone feels irritable from time to time. But persistent irritability can interfere with your daily life. It can make it hard to complete daily activities and hurt your relationships.1,2

The most common sign of irritability is a reaction to small annoyances. The reaction is often much larger than the situation. Some other common signs of irritability include:1,2

  • Agitation or frustration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty changing plans
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing rate
  • Oversensitivity
  • Short temper

How common is irritability for people with insomnia?

Lack of sleep is a common cause of poor mood and irritability, so it is no surprise that people with insomnia often report being in a bad mood. According to our Sleep Disorders In America Survey:

61 percent of respondents with insomnia experience irritability.
Respondents with insomnia experience irritability an average of 17 days per month.

Other studies have supported our survey data. One study of nearly 2,500 adults showed that insomnia is linked to:3

  • Lower mood
  • Higher tension and anxiety
  • Higher anger and hostility
  • Less resilience

Why does insomnia put you in a bad mood?

We all know that a lack of sleep can put you in a bad mood. Even a week of low sleep can make you feel angrier and sadder. Once your sleep returns to normal, your mood often does too.4

However, people with chronic sleep problems like insomnia often do not get full nights of sleep. A bad mood can make it even harder to sleep because of higher stress and anxiety. This means insomnia can lead to more persistent bad moods.1

Irritability or low mood is also a common sign of depression and anxiety. People with insomnia are 5 times more likely to develop depression. Research shows there is often a link between lack of sleep, depression, and low mood.1,5

How can I reduce the impact of insomnia on my mood?

If you feel that your mood is interfering with your life, talk to your doctor. They can suggest lifestyle changes to improve your sleep.
For example, some healthy sleep habits include:6

  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Reducing caffeine and alcohol
  • Having a calm routine before sleep
  • Going to sleep only when you are truly tired
  • Not napping too close to bedtime
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine

It is not easy to follow all of these guidelines. Everyone has different sleep schedules and triggers of poor sleep. Try to identify what disrupts your sleep so that you can focus on altering that specific behavior.6

Other lifestyle changes that may help improve your mood include:

  • Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Social support
  • Writing in a journal
  • Focusing on positive feelings

Sometimes, lifestyle changes may not work well. In this case, your doctor can suggest treatments that improve your sleep and mental health. For example, behavioral therapy or medicines may help.6

Share your experiences managing insomnia, and how insomnia manages your mood in this forum, here.

The 2020 Sleep Disorders In America survey was conducted online from March through July 2020. Of the 2,198 people who completed the survey, 404 identified that they have insomnia.

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