Large Study Finds Poor Sleep Quality Associated With Mental Illness

This is the first large-scale transdiagnostic study of objectively measured sleep and mental health.

Individuals with a mental illness are more likely to have poor quality of sleep than the general population, according to a study published in PLOS Medicine.1

The researchers aimed to analyze the association of accelerometer-derived sleep measures with psychiatric diagnoses and polygenic risk scores in a large community-based cohort.1

“The differences in sleep patterns indicated worse sleep quality for participants with a previous diagnosis of mental illness, including waking up more often and for longer periods of time,” said senior author Shreejoy Tripathy, MD, in a press release.2

The study collected data from 89,205 participants in the UK who agreed to wear an accelerometer on their wrist that tracked body movement 24 hours a day for 7 days. Additionally, the participants consented to having their data stored in a digital biobank for research purposes, The study authors used computational algorithms, including machine learning, to summarize the vast amount of data into 10 metrics, such as bedtime, wake time, naps, and the longest duration of uninterrupted sleep.

The metrics were compared between participants who had received a previous diagnosis of mental illness in their lifetime and those who had not.2

According to the study authors, this is the first large-scale transdiagnostic study of objectively measured sleep and mental health. They noted that the unique methodology used in the study allowed for sleep monitoring to be conducted in each individual’s natural home sleep environment rather than in a laboratory setting.2

“Until now nobody has looked at objectively measured sleep in the context of mental illness at quite this scale before,” Tripathy said in a press release. “Part of why we wanted to do this study is that with the emergence of smartphones and wearables, we have access to data streams that we never had before.”2


1. Wainberg M, Jones SE, Beaupre LM, et al. Association of accelerometer-derived sleep measures with lifetime psychiatric diagnoses: A cross-sectional study of 89,205 participants from the UK Biobank. PLOS Medicine. October 12, 2021.

2. Mental illness associated with poor sleep quality according to largest study of its kind. EurekAlert! October 12, 2021. Accessed October 13, 2021.