High-Quality Sleep May Help Prevent Anxiety and Depression During Stressful Times

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New research indicates that high-quality sleep can help bolster resilience to depression and anxiety despite chronic stress.

The study, published in the journal Science Direct, was conducted by researchers from the University of York in York, England, and sought to better understand sleep's role in supporting positive mental health outcomes when paired with other coping strategies.

For the investigation, researchers analyzed data from over 600 participants collected during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The data was sourced from the Boston College Daily Sleep and Well-being Survey, which included regular reports of participants' sleep quality and mental health status. In addition, the survey collected information about the participants' alcohol consumption, quarantine status, and physical activity levels. The participants also answered baseline demographic survey questions about their age, gender, and ethnicity.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic has been a prolonged period of stress for people across the entire world, it offered us with a unique context with which to address our research questions,” said study researcher Emma Sullivan, a PhD student from the Department of Psychology at the University of York. "This is the first study to investigate the ways in which positive coping strategies and sleep quality influence depression and anxiety when experiencing a real-world chronic stressor.”

Upon analysis, the data indicated that better sleep quality was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We found that sleep plays a hugely important role in the management of chronic stress and can sustain well-being over a long period of time, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety,” said the project’s supervisor Scott Cairney, PhD, of the University of York.

According to researchers, these findings underscore the importance of quality sleep as well as traditional coping strategies to prevent poor mental health outcomes during periods of chronic stress.