Insomnia & Poor Quality Sleep

Mental health conditions including anxiety and depression can often be associated with problems sleeping. Our team has specialist expertise in the links between mental health and insomnia, as well as extensive clinical experience of working with individuals affected by anxiety and depression.

Insomnia associated with anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health problems. Many patients with sleep problems will experience symptoms of anxiety and depression as the conditions can be closely linked.

What is depression?

Depression is a condition where people experience a low mood, and often lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. People with depression may experience a range of negative emotions including sadness and hopelessness, and sometimes physical symptoms such as pain and gastrointestinal symptoms as well.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety refers to feelings of worry, fear, agitation and irritability and can be a symptom of different conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety or panic disorder. Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as racing heart or shortness of breath.

What is the relationship between poor sleep and anxiety and depression?

People with depression and anxiety often experience symptoms of sleep disturbance. And people with insomnia often experience symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety. The relationship goes both ways! It is thought that up to 80% of people suffering from depression will also have insomnia, and 40% of people with insomnia will develop symptoms of depression.

We know that if insomnia symptoms are not treated well during one episode of depression, there is a greater risk of developing another episode of depression in the future.

Sleep has a vital role in regulating our emotions, and has a calming effect on our nervous system. The impact of poor sleep on mental health can show itself quite quickly, and research has shown that insufficient sleep can rapidly lead to a more negative state of mind than when we are well slept.

This can cause a vicious circle where heightened anxiety one day makes it harder to fall asleep that night, impacting on our ability to manage anxiety the following day also. It can be hard to break that cycle and people with anxiety often feel over-stimulated and agitated, making it challenging to achieve a good night’s sleep. Stress of any kind can also cause this type of hyperarousal and often leads to disturbed sleep.

What is behind the relationship between sleep and mental health?

We are not clear on the exact mechanisms that form such a strong link between sleep and mental health conditions. The answer may lie in connections between areas of the brain that lead to both poor sleep and generating negative emotions. Research suggests that people with poor sleep, and with depression have increased brain connections between areas of the brain related to short-term memory, the self, and negative emotions. These may lead them to focus too much on negative thoughts, which may contribute to poor sleep.

Studies have also shown that our sleep (in particular our deep slow wave sleep) promote the brain connections that reduce anxiety. Therefore disturbed sleep, reduces this calming effect and can increase levels of anxiety.

How we treat sleep problems associated with anxiety and depression

It does not matter which came first; mood, anxiety and sleep symptoms all have a negative impact on people’s lives and require effective treatment.

At The Good Sleep Clinic we offer a range of options to restore good sleep for people with symptoms of depression and anxiety. We offer a personalised treatment programme based on an in depth assessment. If we feel that your sleep difficulties are negatively impacting on your mood, we our psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are effective treatments for insomnia, and often improve symptoms of depression and anxiety as well. There are a number of medications which work to improve mood and anxiety symptoms, whilst also offering beneficial effects on sleep and we may recommend one of these as part of your treatment programme.

After a difficult start I have made so much progress with my sleep. It is more consistent, and I no longer spend my day worrying about bed time. I now understand factors that were getting in the way of good sleep, and I am confident I can navigate my way around them if they arise in the future. Thank you for all your support.