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  • Sponsored Q&A

    What are the interactions of depression, anxiety, sleep and exercise?

    Nicole Scott is a Clinically Endorsed Psychologist working at The Talk Shop who has experience working with Children, Adolescents and Adults, on issues from anxiety to sleep, using treatments from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy through to Mindfulness and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in settings ranging from Schools to Private Practice.

    Listen to Nicole Scott's interview regarding the interaction of depression, anxiety, sleep and exercise on Talking Lifestyle below.
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    • Nicole Scott
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  • Nicole has worked extensively with children and adolescents in various educational settings. She has also worked with adults, in both clinical and medical settings. Nicole ... View Profile


    Anxiety and depressive disorders are prevalent mental health conditions:
    • In 2014-15 there were 4.0 million Australians (17.5%) who reported having a mental or behavioural condition.
    • Anxiety-related conditions were most frequently reported (2.6 million people or 11.2% of the population) followed by depressive disorders (2.1 million people or 9.3%).
    • Around one in twenty Australians (5.1%) reported having both an anxiety-related condition and a mood (affective) disorder.

    Research shows that depression and sleep are associated, as are depression and exercise
    Around one in eleven people (8.9%) reported having depression or feelings of depression in 2014-15.
    • Inadequate sleep and exercise are associated with burnout and depression in medical students.
    • Exercise is beneficial for depression but the optimal dose is unclear.
    • Exercise for depression can be effective at different intensity levels.
    • Exercise, whether performed at a low (yoga or similar), moderate or vigorous intensity (aerobic training) is effective in treating mild to moderate depression and is at least as effective as treatment as usual by a physician.
    • Research on major depression has confirmed that it is caused by an array of biopsychosocial and lifestyle factors including diet, sleep and exercise.
    • Sleep and depression have been found to predict each other in children.

    Research indicates that there is a relationship between anxiety and sleep as well as anxiety and exercise
    In 2014-15, around one in eight females (13.0%) reported having an anxiety-related condition compared with around one in ten males (9.4%).
    • While exercise has been demonstrated to reduce anxiety levels, further research is required in this area.
    • It is unclear as to which type of exercise; moderate to hard or very light to light, is more effective in anxiety reduction.
    • Both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise seems to reduce anxiety symptoms.
    • Insomnia is an independent risk factor for incident anxiety disorders and vice versa.

    Research indicates that there is a relationship between sleep and exercise
    • Sleep and exercise exert substantial positive effects on one another.
    • Six months of regular aerobic exercise training tailored by fitness level improved sleep in insomniacs by curtailing the objectively measured sleep onset latency and reducing the frequency of difficulty falling asleep.
    • Adolescents with higher subjective and objective physical activity were more likely to experience good sleep subjectively and objectively.
    • Consistently high levels of recreational physical activity, but not lifestyle- or household-related activity, were linked to better sleep in midlife women.
    • Increasing recreational physical activity early in midlife may protect against sleep disturbance in this population.
    • Vigorous exercisers had a more favourable objective sleep pattern.

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