Sleep is Important for Your Mental Health

Nearly all psychological conditions can negatively impact your sleep in some way.

Anxiety and Depression Can Disrupt Sleep

For example, anxiety can make it hard to fall asleep at the start of the night or return to sleep if you wake during the night. A racing mind is not conducive to sleep, and worry can escalate in the quiet of night when you have nothing else to focus upon.  It can be hard to quieten your mind and find calm, especially if you begin to worry about the fact that you aren’t falling asleep, and how hard tomorrow is going to be for you!

Depression can also contribute to waking up early in the morning and difficulties falling back to sleep. Ruminations on difficult thoughts, feelings or experiences can keep you awake and be hard to leave alone.  When people are fatigued and lack energy during the day they are more likely to nap during the day or go to bed too early at night. By spending lots of time in bed each 24 hours, your sleep pressure becomes less, and you are likely to spend more time awake in bed each night. It can become a vicious cycle. 

Sleep Difficulties Can Lead to Depression or Anxiety

What is less well known is that sometimes sleep difficulties can bring on an episode of anxiety or depression. Michael Perlis and colleagues noticed back in 1997 that worsening sleep was the biggest risk factor for people experiencing a later major depressive episode. It also makes sense that a poor night’s sleep can increase a person’s anxiety the next day, as they will have had less REM sleep, and less emotional processing.

If you are feeling anxious or depressed and experiencing sleep difficulties, it may be that seeing a psychologist for help with your depression or anxiety leads to improvements in your sleep. However, if these issues have been present for a long time, your sleep difficulties may persist even after you are feeling better during the day and no longer depressed or anxious. This increases your vulnerability to further mental health difficulties in the future.

Considering how important sleep is for our overall mental health, if you are not sleeping well it is advisable to directly target your sleep.  Fortunately, your sleep can improve relatively quickly through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), and these improvements can be sustained going forward.

Getting help

If you would like to get some help with your sleep, please book in with one of our psychologists at the Centre for Clinical Psychology. You can book online or via the phone (03) 9077 0122.


Perlis, M. L., Giles, D. E., Buysse, D. J., Tu, X., & Kupfer, D. J. (1997). Self-reported sleep disturbance as a prodromal symptom in recurrent depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 42(2), 209–212.