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Depression And Sleeping – How Are They Connected?

a profile image of TSA author Andjela

Written By Anđela Rajković

Certified Sleep Consultant

a man suffers from a depression and lack of sleep

9 April 2024 5 min read

Depression is a very serious mental disorder that strikes a great number of people. Statistics show that more than 6% of adults in the USA suffer from this mental illness. During one study conducted in the USA, a surprisingly large number of people said that they felt depressed at least once in their life. While depression is dangerously widespread, it actually is a highly treatable illness. When the disease is diagnosed at an early stage it can be treated without medications.

The biggest indicators of depression are:

Sleeping disorders play a very important role in depression diagnosis. Actually, if you are being evaluated for depression, one of the first questions you might hear would be: are you sleeping excessively or are you sleep deprived?

The relation between mood and sleeping disorders

The connection between depression and sleep disorders is a two-way street. Depression can cause sleep problems, and sleep problems can cause depression. The big problem is that they can simultaneously worsen each other. For instance, depressed people can get more depressed if they remain sleep deprived. Some therapists approach treating depression by treating patient’s sleeping disorder.

Researchers show that there is a clear correlation between REM stages and depression. There are some indications that the reduction of a REM stage duration can influence a depressed mind in a positive way. Unfortunately, it stays unclear whether and how this can be used in treating depression. Due to the lack of research, it’s unknown if this method could even be safe.

Insomnia

A sleeping disorder that is most frequently triggered by depression is insomnia. This happens for many reasons, oftentimes because the worries and negative thoughts keep a depressed person awake. Also, the lack of energy and motivation leads to the lack of activities, so a depressed person can feel “wired” during the night. Intense emotional stress can also be a reason why insomnia often accompanies depression.

Geography and change of seasons can cause a temporary depression. There is a thing called SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) or “winter depression”. This type of depression can trigger serious insomnia. SAD usually strikes people who live in parts of the world that have very long winters and too little sunlight.

an image of a depressed woman that cant sleep

Hypersomnia

It’s not rare for depression to cause hypersomnia or oversleeping. Sometimes depressed people tend to oversleep due to social isolation and lack of activities. Depressed people often deliberately deprive themselves of socializing and hobbies. Spending the whole day inside results in many long naps and constant sleepiness. Some depressed people can see sleep as an “escape” from worries, which just worsens and deepens the problem.

a woman suffering from hypersomnia

Other sleeping disorders

Depression can often be accompanied by sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or snoring. Even the problems with unpleasant dreams and nightmares can go hand in hand with depression. All of these disorders can eventually cause insomnia.

Dealing with sleeping disorders while depressed

Besides psychotherapy and medications, there are many things that you can do to fight your sleeping disorders, caused, or accompanied by depression. This especially goes for light or moderate mood disorders.

Train your mind to see your bedroom just as a place of sleep

This is highly important for dealing with too much or too little sleep. Never use your bedroom for other activities such as watching movies, TV, surfing the web, reading etc. Use it solely for sleep! It helps a lot if you make your bedroom more beautiful and designed according to your taste. Make it pleasant and comfortable by investing in a healthy mattress and room décor. Also, when going to bed, try to make positive thinking the last thing you do before falling asleep.

Spend as much time as possible in the sunlight

Natural light is one of the best remedies for depression. Find an excuse to spend more and more time outside during the day. While working or studying choose a place next to the windows. Open up your curtains, brighten your home and let the natural light wake you up.

a woman walking on the beach

Exercise or “tire” yourself with interesting, fun and stimulating activities that you will enjoy

Try to spend the whole day “doing something”. This way you will spend your energy in a healthy way and hopefully fall asleep faster at night. This is also a very good practice for building your self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. Do the things that you are good at and that make you happy!

Practice positive thinking and remain busy with your social life

If depressed, socializing can be just the last thing that you want to do. But it can help you a lot, so, go out and spend time with your friends and family. Choose to be around the people that make you feel good about yourself and that bring out positive feelings in you. Socializing can help you go through the day without unhealthy napping that leads to insomnia.

spending time out with friends

Conclusion

Researchers show that sleep deprivation causes strong emotional sensitivity. This can be the reason why people with sleeping disorders often develop problems with depression. Lack of natural sunlight and the disturbed sleeping cycle can also cause depression. This can be noticed amongst people who work night shifts for a long period of time. Experts agree on that treating depression can help in sleeping disorders treatment, and vice versa.

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About the author

Anđela Rajković
As a CPD certified Sleep Consultant and well-practiced sleep enthusiast, I find a lot of joy in bringing my expertise to our readers – preferably those who love to sleep. With a background in the English language and literature and a love of research, I'm always seeking new ways to share the latest sleep science and bed-related findings. And, when I'm not connecting with my readers, you can find me exploring the great outdoors, or, well, curling up in bed.
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