Sleep, insomnia and mental health

J Sleep Res. 2022 Aug;31(4):e13628. doi: 10.1111/jsr.13628. Epub 2022 May 4.


While sleep serves important regulatory functions for mental health, sleep disturbances, in particular insomnia, may favour a state of allostatic overload impairing brain neuroplasticity and stress immune pathways, hence contributing to mental disorders. In this framework, the aim of this work was to link current understanding about insomnia mechanisms with current knowledge about mental health dysregulatory mechanisms. The focus of the present work was on mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders, which represent important challenges in clinical practice. Literature searches were conducted on clinical, neurobiological, and therapeutic implications for insomnia comorbid with these mental disorders. Given the complexity and heterogeneity of the existing literature, we ended up with a narrative review. Insomnia may play an important role as a risk factor, a comorbid condition and transdiagnostic symptom for many mental disorders including mood/anxiety disorders and schizophrenia. Insomnia may also play a role as a marker of disrupted neuroplasticity contributing to dysregulation of different neurobiological mechanisms involved in these different mental conditions. In this framework, insomnia treatment may not only foster normal sleep processes but also the stress system, neuroinflammation and brain plasticity. Insomnia treatment may play an important preventive and neuroprotective role with cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia being the treatment with important new evidence of efficacy for insomnia, psychopathology, and indices of disrupted neuroplasticity. On the other hand, pharmacological pathways for insomnia treatment in these mental conditions are still not well defined. Therapeutic options acting on melatonergic systems and new therapeutic options acting on orexinergic systems may represents interesting pathways of interventions that may open new windows on insomnia treatment in mental disorders.

Keywords: CBT-insomnia; anxiety disorders; brain plasticity; insomnia; insomnia treatment; mental disorders; mental health; mood disorders; schizophrenia; sleep.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / therapy