The Link between Depression and Sleep

Sleep is often considered an optional extra for busy people, trying to cram as much as possible into their day. Yet if you are one of the many people who toss and turn at night, the relief of sleep eluding you, then you will know the agony of insomnia.

While a number of factors can trigger difficulty sleeping, research tells us that if you have depression you are more likely to experience sleep problems. These include problems falling asleep (sleep onset insomnia), difficult staying asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia), or early morning wakening.

It works the other way, too. If you have troubling sleeping, then you have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared to those who fall asleep easily.

Sleep is a problem for many

The rates of depression are increasing worldwide and so too are sleep problems. A 2019 report commissioned by the Sleep Health Foundation revealed the extent of sleep problems in Australians. It found almost 60 per cent of people regularly experience at least one sleep symptom (like trouble falling or staying asleep). This is concerning, given that sleep problems are also linked to depression.

“It’s troubling to see just how common it is for people to struggle with their sleep when it’s such a vital aspect of good health and happiness,” said Professor Robert Adams, lead author of the report and spokesperson for the Sleep Health Foundation.

“Failing to get the quality of quantity of sleep you need affects your mood, safety and health, not to mention your relationships with family and friends,” he explains. It’s very important to get it right.”

Backed by research

American studies have confirmed the strong link between sleep and depression. A Michigan study followed 1,000 adults over a three-year period. It found those people with insomnia were four times more likely to develop major depression over the three years, compared to those who slept well. In another study that looked at 300 pairs of twins it found that sleep problems in childhood significantly increased the chance of developing depression later in life.


Get the help you need

It is crucial to seek help early for sleep problems. This can reduce the risk of developing depression. And for those people who already have depression it will improve the effectiveness of treatment for your depression.

Talk to your GP if you are experiencing any difficulty falling or staying asleep. You may need to look at your nightly routine and other things during the day that may help or hinder your sleep. Your doctor can also make an assessment of your mental health and recommend treatment if necessary. Sleep psychologists treat insomnia with a form of talking therapy known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is an extremely effective treatment for sleep problems.

Q: Is meat the food most likely to cause food poisoning?

Food poisoning affects at least 600 million people every year and can range from mild to fatal. It can have very serious health consequences for anyone considered at risk, such as pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system.

Some foods are definitely higher risk, with meat and chicken at the top of this list. It’s important to cook mince, sausages, stuffed meats and chicken right through to the centre. You should not be able to see any pink meat and the juices should be clear. Steak, chops and whole cuts of red meat are a little different – you can cook these to your preference as food poisoning bacteria are mostly on the surface. Just make sure you don’t put cooked meat back on a plate that held raw meat.

Dairy products, eggs and egg products are also considered high-risk foods, as are hams and salamis, and seafood. Make sure these are eaten or refrigerated as soon as possible after cooking.