Live Better

The toll of a bad night’s sleep

We look at why a good night’s sleep is essential.

From insomnia to sleep apnoea, 1 in 10 Aussies suffer from a sleep disorder of some kind, according to data from the Medibank Better Health Index.

While the odd sleepless night is nothing to be concerned about, if your body receives insufficient or poor quality sleep regularly, it can take its toll on your health — both mentally and physically.

Increase in anxiety, depression and stress

It’s normal to feel off your game the day after a bad sleep, with a foggy head and irritability. But is sleeplessness also connected to more serious mental health side effects? Our data shows that the incidence of anxiety and depression is more than twice as high among those suffering from sleep disorders, and the incidence of stress is nearly twice as high among those suffering from sleep disorders – observations which have been supported by external studies.

So why is this? According to analysis by Harvard Medical School, sleep disruption can affect our neurotransmitters — which are the chemicals that communicate information throughout our body — and this can wreak havoc on the brain and impact emotional regulation. However, while this causal relationship has been observed, it’s important to also bear in mind that the relationship between sleep disorders and mental health issues is complex.

Increased weight

According to our data, those affected by sleep disorders have a higher mean BMI than the general population, at 29.49, compared with 27.30. This could be in part due to decreased motivation, as those affected by sleep disorders were also found to be less likely to exercise.

Further, studies have also shown that a lack of sleep could interfere with the hormones controlling hunger, leading to increased appetite and cravings for foods high in sugar and fat the day after a rough sleep.

Increased risk of chronic conditions

Sleep deprivation has also been shown to be a potential risk factor in a number of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. According to the National Sleep Foundation, one study found that those who slept fewer than 6 hours per night were around twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack than those who slept for 6 to 8 hours. Additionally, another study by Mayo Clinic found that reducing the sleep duration of its participants for 16 days in a row resulted in substantially higher blood pressure at night.

Read these tips on how to set yourself up for a restful night.


Listen now for tips on getting a good night’s sleep as a parent.

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