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“Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together” – Thomas Dekker

June 30, 2014

The importance of good sleep and the impact of insomnia on mental health and wellbeing.

Sleep is a building block essential for our physical and mental wellbeing, potentially providing a period of restoration but also a time when we do not have to think, feel or act. When sleep is disrupted, one may feel very tired, irritable and daily tasks may seemeffortful. If better sleep is not restored within a few days, increased negative feelings can potentially impact on mood and result in other problems. Persistent problems with the quality or quantity of sleep can signal a serious issue called insomnia.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and a frequent health complaint amongst the general population. Insomnia is a distressing difficulty where sleep onset, maintenance of sleep, waking up at odd times or a combination of these symptoms occurs and sleep is insufficient for an individual’s needs, despite adequate time spent in bed to achieve sleep.

There may be risk of developing insomnia in individuals who are predisposed to the condition. Some examples being excessive worry, separation, divorce, becoming widowed, losing someone close, environmental factors such as, excessive caffeine consumption, shift work etc… Symptoms of insomnia can be associated with other medical issues, for example: asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, heart condition,and chronic pain, etc…or other sleep disorders, forexample: restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorders, and sleep-related breathing disorders like sleep apnoea. The use of alcohol and other drugs, including cigarettes and some prescriptiondrugs may increase sleep difficulty.Certain medications and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression are often found to interfere with sleep as well.

Some good habits:

When to seek professional help:

If chronic sleep problems are affecting your work, school, home life, or relationships, psychological assistance should be considered. A GP can organise a referral to a psychologist under the Better Access to Mental Health Care items. Some individuals with insomnia benefit from a combination of medication and psychological interventions. Psychological interventions involving cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia have been shown to be highly effective.Collaboration with the referring medical practitioner is essential, particularly in relation to medical conditions, which may be contributing to insomnia and for managing any medications that may have been prescribed.

Alternately, a medical review with a GP or another medical specialist might be suggested to determine whether a physical condition can account for the symptoms of insomnia. A GP or medical specialist can offer advice and assistance around whether medication might be of benefit.When a person also has symptoms of another sleep problem, a referral to a sleep specialist might be made. A medical test called a sleep study, where the individual’s sleep is monitored overnight at home or in a clinic, may be recommended.

Where to get help:

  • Your doctor
  • Psychologists
  • Sleep disorder clinic


1. https://www.psychology.org.au/inpsych/2014/april/bartlett/
Managing Insomnia, what we’ve learnt in the last 10 years by Associate Professor Delwyn Bartlett MAPS, Coordinator, Medical Psychology, Sleep and Circadian Research Group, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and the University of Sydney

Ellis, J. G., Perlis, M. L., Neale, L. F., Espie, C. A., &Bastien, C. H. (2012). The natural history of insomnia: Focus on prevalence and incidence of acute insomnia. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 46(10), 1278-1285. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.07.001

Roth, T. (2007). Insomnia: Definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. Journal of clinical sleep medicine: JCSM: official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3(5 Suppl), S7.

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