The sleeping giant behind depression and cognitive decline.

A couple of weeks back Goodsky Mental Health Retreat posted 5 ways to treat depression that anyone can do and part of that post addressed the need for sleep. But not just any old sleep, quality sleep that actually heals your body. So today’s post is diving deeper into how sleep can assist in treating depression, anxiety and stress while keeping ahead of cognitive decline. Plus what you can do enhance your sleep quality.

There’s no doubt that insomnia and poor sleep in general is a sleeping giant behind many health conditions. We’ve known this for a long time, but just how bad is it? And how can it assist in treating depression?

Professor Matthew Walker – Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab has conducted studies into just how much sleep we need and what happens when we get it. Their studies show some incredible new insights into what happens when we get quality deep sleep.


Of the multiple sleep stages (awake, light, REM, deep) deep sleep has proven to be one of the most beneficial to us in that it actually sorts and cleans the information stored and makes room for new information. Combine this with quality REM sleep (essential for emotion and mental health) the deep stage is incredibly restorative.

Deep sleep triggers the process that is similar to moving files off a USB stick and onto a computer. It accesses our brains temporary storage section (hippocampus) and tells it to transfer all the information to the central storage area (cortex). Once this has been completed the brain cleans and makes room for new information to be added.

So without the deep sleep stage every night as part of a quality 8 hours sleep, your brain gets clogged up and cannot effectively take on new information and memories the next day. This is why so many people that we treat at our mental health retreat feel like they cannot follow instructions or that their brains are just foggy and slow. Cognitive decline is a very real issue in today’s health and wellbeing. As you will see further on there are very real and daunting implications if you are not getting quality sleep.


  1. Vitamin D –Our body functions rely on good levels of Vitamin D uptake. Make sure you get plenty of natural light exposure throughout the day without burning yourself to a crisp. This natural light will maintain your circadian rhythm and the result is that when the sun goes down, it will prepare your body for sleep.
  2. Exercise and breathing – Even just walking for 10-20 mins is great. For many people that can be hard but the more you stick at the better you will get. For learning how to breathe – that’s right most of us just do enough to keep us alive, checkout breathing and mindfulness app such as stop, breathe & think and smiling mind. Both of these apps teach you to slow your heart rate and clear your mind, both of which are essential for sleep. Also, check out
  3. Eating at the right time – digestion plays a huge part in how your body rests at night. So if you load up with heavy carbs and sugar late at night you are asking your body to do some heavy lifting. Terrible food choices aside, your digestive system will in overload instead of quietly ticking away in the background.
  4. Self-regulating – much like the breathwork mentioned in no.2, if you can learn to control your breathing to slow your thoughts, reduce heart rate and control emotion you can get to sleep much faster and expect quality sleep. With a little practice and consistency, you can be in control. Check out the tapping solution app
  5. The right environment – your sleep environment is crucial in getting a solid 8 hours (the time that is scientifically proven to be beneficial). Keep it clean, free of dust and keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. If it receives a signal. turn it off. If it emits a blue spectrum light (phones tablets, laptops) turn it off. Constant temperature is also crucial with 20-degrees Celsius being the optimal temp to maintain. In addition to this, the body needs to drop its core temperature but 1-2 degrees to initiate the sleep stages.
  6. The right bed – you spend a lot of time on it so it should be the right fit. That means the correct sleeping posture with a mattress that can be adjusted to match your individual body shape. For those of you with medical conditions that affect sleep check out the TGA and NDIS approved Wenatex sleep systems or book a consultation with a sleep specialist today.
  7. The next level – if you are doing all of these things well but you still can’t get enough sleep then we need to go deeper and find the root cause to stop cognitive decline. When treating depression or anxiety we always see a cluster of symptoms that point to a root cause. So finding and identifying that root cause is essential in moving your health forward. Our integrated teams at the mental health retreat will assist you through biochemical testing, psychotherapy assessments and musculoskeletal reviews to look for the root cause and treat it effectively.


Without quality sleep, we put ourselves at risk to severe cognitive decline, mood disorders and chronic health conditions such as:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Massive mood swings
  • Stroke and heart failure
  • Digestive issues
  • Learning difficulty
  • Fatigue
  • Poor memory recall
  • Impaired immune system
Goodsky mental health retreat and cognitive decline from poor sleep
What happens when your brain doesn’t sleep and the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

No matter what age we are the above should be enough to change our minds about how much respect we give to sleep. In an age where everything is trying to keep us awake, wired and ready to buy, the sleeping giant of chronic mental and physical health issues could be sleep itself.

For assistance and help with treating sleep conditions and depression go to our depression retreat page

For help to treat depression, anxiety, stress, trauma and PTSD go to the Goodsky Mental Health Retreat

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