Updated at: 14-02-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Depression is frequently associated with sleep issues, as most individuals who have gone through it will attest. Depression can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night for those with the condition. Additionally, they may suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness or even sleep deprivation.

Depression can worsen if you have sleep problems, and this can create a vicious cycle that is difficult to overcome. Depression can be triggered by a lack of sleep in certain people.

Improving sleep and controlling depression can be made easier by gaining a thorough understanding of the intricate relationship between the two.

What Is Depression?

When faced with adversity, it’s normal to feel dejected, disappointed, or hopeless. Most people experience emotions of anxiety or depression at some point during their lives, but these sensations are usually short-lived and don’t interfere with their daily lives.

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Feelings in depression don’t always follow the same pattern. They may be linked to depressive disorders if they last for more than two weeks, are felt almost daily, and last for the majority of the day. Depressive disorders, often known as clinical depression, are characterized by a host of negative emotions, such as sadness, disappointment, and hopelessness, as well as physical and mental changes that make day-to-day tasks difficult.

About 4.4% of the world’s population is disabled by depression, making it the biggest cause of disability worldwide. Depressive disorders are the second most frequent mental health problem in the United States, after anxiety disorders. Depression can have a significant impact on a person’s sleep and overall quality of life, as many people with the condition have discovered.

What Causes Depression?

Researchers aren’t sure what causes depression, but there are several things that can put you at greater risk for it. Personal or familial history of depression, substantial stressors or trauma, using particular drugs, and having specific conditions are some of the risk factors for developing depression.

About half of those who suffer from depression have a family history of the disorder. It is possible that a person’s genetics may influence the activity of neurotransmitters (substances that enable nerve cells to communicate) connected to depression such as serotonin and dopamine.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Symptoms of depression might include both physical and mental changes that make it difficult to go about your day-to-day activities normally. Among the possible signs and symptoms are:

  • Depression or irritability persists over time.
  • Negative thoughts about one’s self-worth, value, or importance.
  • Displeasure with what you’re doing.
  • Reduced stamina and exhaustion.
  • I’m having a hard time staying focused.
  • Oversleeping, waking up early or having trouble falling asleep.
  • Overeating or a lack of appetite.
  • Suicide or death thoughts.

When it comes to the symptoms of depression, women are more likely to experience them than men. Anger and irritation are more common in men, while melancholy and guilt are more common in women. Depression in adolescents can cause them to be irritable and have difficulty in school, while in smaller children, they may pretend to be unwell or worry that a parent will die.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

If you think you might be depressed, see a doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist. Only a medical practitioner can diagnose depression. Your symptoms and their duration may come up in conversation. Tests that can help them better understand your situation and monitor changes or improvements over time may also be recommended by your doctor.

Patients may be referred to a sleep disorder expert by their healthcare practitioner to examine if a sleep issue, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, is causing or contributing to their sadness or symptoms.

What Are the Types of Depressive Disorders?

Depression is characterized by significant melancholy or a lack of interest in one’s daily routine. The severity of the symptoms and the context in which they arise can lead to a variety of different kinds of depression.

An individual with the severe depressive disorder experiences symptoms nearly every day for an extended period of time, making it the most well-known form. Sleep disturbances are a common symptom.

As with major depression, persistent depressive disorder, also known as dysthymia or chronic depression, has fewer symptoms but lasts for at least two years (or one year in children and adolescents).

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are two more types of depression that tend to come and go, but can also cause major sleep issues.

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Depression and insomnia are linked. Depression is almost always accompanied by sleep problems. Even if there are no complaints about sleep, clinicians may hesitate to make a diagnosis of depression.

Depression and sleep problems are linked in a reciprocal manner. This means that depression can cause sleep problems and that depression can cause sleep problems in the first place. When it comes to sleep and depression, it might be difficult to tell which occurred first.

These include sleeplessness, hypersomnia, and obstructive apnea, which are all linked to depression. The most frequent symptom of depression, insomnia, is estimated to affect 75% of adult patients. Obstructive sleep apnea affects approximately 20% of depressed individuals, while hypersomnia affects approximately 15%. During a depressive episode, many people have periods of both sleeplessness and hypersomnia.

The neurotransmitter serotonin may play a role in the development of depression by altering its function. For example, a disruption in sleep patterns might alter the circadian rhythm and increase the risk of depression.

For the most part, those who receive treatment for serious depression say that they are able to sleep better.

Take sleep problems seriously

It’s important to tell your doctor if:

  • have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.
  • drowsy during the day.
  • suffer from sleep apnea or other physical symptoms that keep you awake at night, such as pain, discomfort, and interruptions in breathing.

Insomnia and apnea treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices can help you get a decent night’s sleep and avoid other diseases, like depression, that are linked to sleep disorders. (Sleep apnea patients are five times more likely to develop depression.)

Stay alert for signs of depression

Some of these symptoms include a sense of hopelessness or sadness, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, a lack of energy, excessive daytime sleepiness, diminished interest in formerly pleasurable activities, or even suicidal or death thoughts. Be sure to discuss any of these with your physician. (If you’re having suicidal thoughts, dial 911 immediately.)

If you’re talking to your doctor about your sleeplessness, this is very crucial. As Finan puts it, “Insomnia may be a separate disorder, or it may be a sign of sadness.” As much information as possible is needed to treat the correct issue, according to your doctor.

Get help for both depression and sleep

Do not assume that if you have insomnia and depression, the medical treatment for one will instantly address the other. Selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other antidepressants may lift your spirits and brighten your outlook, but they won’t necessarily help you sleep better.

There’s some evidence that patients under treatment for depression are more likely to relapse if they have persistent sleep issues. Depression treatment and CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia) appear to improve sleep and may increase the likelihood of remission in patients with depression.

How Is Depression Treated?

Depression is treatable, but it can have a significant impact on a person’s sleep and general well-being. Working with a doctor or other mental health professional to determine the kind and severity of depression may lead to the following treatment options:

  • Counseling: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are effective treatments for depression (IPT). With CBT-I for insomnia, chronic insomnia can be effectively managed.
  • Medications: Taking antidepressants is a good way to treat depression. Patients may need to try a number of antidepressants before finding the one that works best for them, as these prescription medications normally take time to improve symptoms. These medications can be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist who can discuss their appropriateness and propose a specific type.
  • Brain stimulation therapies: Some persons with depression contemplate electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or other, more recent methods of brain stimulation including rTMS and vagus nerve stimulation if drugs and other approaches fail to alleviate their symptoms (VNS). In order to get the best results from these treatments, they must be administered by a competent medical practitioner.

Combining medication with psychotherapy has proven to be more effective than using just one strategy on its own, according to a recent study.

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Tips for Sleeping Better

Depression can be exacerbated by sleep disorders, which can also raise the likelihood of a recurrence in persons who have been effectively treated for the illness. The following methods will help you sleep better, improve your mood, and lessen some of the symptoms of depression, as a result.

  • Talk to a therapist: There are a variety of therapeutic approaches available to assist you in overcoming depression and altering your perspective on sleep. Some of the underlying sentiments and obstacles that contribute to depression can be processed using therapeutic methods such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), and psychodynamic therapy (PDT). To help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression, mental health specialists can also recommend concrete behavioral adjustments and provide you with coping mechanisms.
  • Keep a regular sleep/wake time: There are times when a person suffering from depression has difficulty keeping their schedule. Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up time allows your body to get the full 7-9 hours of sleep it needs. Establishing an evening routine also serves as a signal to your body to begin the process of preparing itself for sleep.
  • Nap carefully: The temptation to take a nap during the day can arise from a lack of sleep at night. The best nap length is between 10 to 20 minutes, which is commonly referred to as a “power nap,” according to research. It is possible to control our emotions, minimize tiredness, and improve overall performance by taking short power naps. However, it’s crucial to limit your snoozes to a reasonable amount of time. In order to reap the benefits of a nap, you need a nap that lasts more than 20 minutes, whereas naps that last less than 10 minutes are not long enough.
  • Avoid alcohol: While it may be alluring to indulge in a few drinks to help you unwind and drift off to sleep, alcohol really has the opposite impact. Even modest drinking before going to bed can interrupt your sleep cycle and lower the amount of time you spend in REM sleep, according to research.
  • Get outside: Spending time outside is an easy approach to improve your sleep if you are suffering from depression. Our circadian rhythms, which govern when we should be awake and when we should sleep, are synchronized when we are exposed to sunshine. For example, when we are exposed to sunlight on a regular basis, our bodies receive a signal that they should be attentive and active. Melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, is produced by our bodies as the sunsets. Outside time can be a simple and effective strategy to activate the brain’s natural chemicals that support good sleep.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercising outdoors is a terrific way to spend time outdoors. Sleep quality is improved as a result of increased exposure to sunlight. In fact, studies show that those who exercise in any way, whether it’s light, moderate, or vigorous, have better sleep. Exercise has been demonstrated to drastically reduce symptoms of depression, making it a good choice for sleep and mental health. To avoid disrupting your ability to get a good night’s sleep, consider exercising during the first half of the day rather than at night.
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