The Reliance GP Blog

Depression and Anxiety Linked to Sleep Deprivation
Missy Tysoe August 22, 2016

Depression and Anxiety Linked to Sleep Deprivation

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Many of us have spent nights tossing and turning while glancing at the clock for hours on end. But for some, a restless night is routine. In particular, for those suffering depression and/or anxiety, abnormal sleep patterns can interfere with physical, mental, and emotional functioning.

During the sleep cycle, the body goes through certain processes that are vital to keep you performing at your best the next day.

Sleep deprivation places pressure on the body and mind to perform its usual functions without adequate energy levels, leading to changes in behaviour, emotion, concentration, memory, cognitive function and motor coordination. In addition to the mental and emotional toll, lack of sleep can lead to a lowered immune system and weight gain.

Below we explore how a shortened sleep cycle can also negatively impact your mental and physical health:

Mood: Tiredness dampens your mood, making you more attuned to negative experience like pain. For instance, people experiencing sleep deprivation may have difficulty enjoying simple things like humour. Although laughing may seem easy, finding something funny actually involves complex brain processes controlled by the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain most impacted by a lack of sleep.

Pain: When your body is under-rested, it releases inflammatory chemicals that are implicated in pain sensations.

Concentration and Memory: During the REM stage the brain stores certain types of information and memory. Sleep is also a time when the brain clears waste chemicals and failing to do so can affect your ability to form memories in the future.

Immune System: The white blood cells needed to fight viruses and bacteria aren’t as effective when you’re sleep deprived, meaning your immunity against disease is weakened.

Weight Gain: When you are sleep deprived, the hormone that stimulates appetite increases, while the hormone that controls willpower to stop eating decreases. To make matters worse, when you are tired, your metabolic processes are slowed down. The good news is, you can speed these back up through exercise – a perfect ingredient for a good night’s sleep.

If you are having trouble sleeping and are waking up feeling tired and unrested, Reliance Sleep Study Clinic might be the ideal solution. Please contact 02 4304 1333 or visit

Email for a free copy of Dr Mark Levi’s eBook tips for a great night’s sleep

To treat insomnia, one of the main things we should focus on is being more relaxed and drowsy before going to bed. There are also good habits you can practice in order to regulate the hormone that helps you get to sleep. Sleep experts refer to these habits as “sleep hygiene”. Reliance Sleep medicine expert, Dr Levi shares his tips for practicing good sleep hygiene.

Get the room temperature right

Room temperature can have a massive effect on sleep, but is often not considered by individuals suffering sleep problems. The ideal temperature for sleep varies from person to person, but is generally around 15- 20 degrees Celsius. With Australia’s warm climate, bedrooms are often reaching much higher temperatures during the night, causing overheating and poor sleep.

Lights out

Light plays an important role in regulating levels of melatonin, the hormone that clocks your sleep.    Avoid looking at TVs, laptops and phones at least an hour or two before bed. The light tricks the brain into thinking that it is daytime, interfering with our circadian rhythms. Try and leave a blind open so that the natural light can get in of a morning – this will help regulate our cycle, and natural light has been linked to higher serotonin (the happy hormone).

Bed is for sleeping

Many people are simply not allowing themselves enough time to get adequate sleep and this includes people who watch TV series or scroll their phone in bed. It is also important to treat the bed as a place for sleep, to subconsciously condition the body (in a similar way we toilet train our pets to go in a certain spot). Watching TV in bed, or using your bed to study, work or browse the laptop on can interfere with your sleep too. If you keep your waking activities confined to other spaces, you will be more conditioned to “wind-down” when you’re in your bedroom.

Lose the booze

Those suffering from mental illness or high levels of stress are more likely to rely on alcohol to ‘reduce stress’ or help them get to sleep, but this is doing more harm than good. Alcohol relaxes the muscles – which can lead to tissue in the throat blocking the airways and disturbing the sleep cycle – which will then have to start over again.

Exercise at the right time

While exercising generally improves sleep quality, exercise just a couple of hours before bed has the very opposite effect. Your brain is very active after a workout and your body temperature is raised, as is your heartrate and adrenaline level.

Exercising earlier in the day (don’t leave it any later than 5 hours before bed) can help you improve your quality of sleep, as well as improving your mood and physical health. Exercise is one of the best ways to release endorphins – cute little peptides in the brain that make us happy. This is an easy way to combat anxiety, depression AND sleep deprivation.  You don’t have to run a marathon, start small, a short walk is still lapping someone on the couch. It may be hard to find the motivation, but take my word for it, you will only ever regret NOT doing it.

Avoid late night snacking

Just like exercise, food should be avoided in the two to three hours preceding bedtime. The body becomes very active when digesting food, preventing sleep. Keep in mind certain additives in highly processed foods can mess with your energy levels, hydration, blood sugar and even mood, so try and avoid heavily processed foods, or foods high in sugar, GI and saturated fats.

Follow a Pre-Sleep Protocol

Many people benefit from establishing their own pre-sleep routine which works to help them wind down, relax and prepare their mind and body for sleep. These routines can vary but usually involve things like taking a warm bath or shower, using calming scents like lavender, drinking herbal tea such as camomile, lighting candles instead of lights, reading, meditating or performing other calming activities.

Please contact Reliance Sleep Study Clinic today on 02 4304 1333 and get your sleep back on track.

Email for a free copy of Dr Mark Levi’s eBook tips for a great night’s sleep.

Article Author: Dr Mark Levi

Article Editor: Melissa Burt

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