Sleep Problems & Depression: A Two-Way Street

Sleep problems and depression often go hand-in-hand, with each contributing to the other. Treating one issue can make a difference to both.

Many people who experience depression will be familiar with its impact on sleep, and those who have sleep difficulties know just how much exhaustion affects their mood.


Sleep and Depression: The Facts

The statistics linking sleep problems and depression are persuasive:

– Approximately 75 percent of people with depression have insomnia. 

– Forty percent of young adults with depression and 10 percent of older adults have hypersomnia — excessive sleepiness and difficulty staying awake during the day.

– Those with insomnia are ten times more likely to develop depression than people who get enough sleep.

– The sleep disorder sleep apnea is also linked to depression.

– Sleeping too much or too little are key indicators of depression and they help mental health professionals to form a diagnosis of depression.


So, What Exactly is the Link Between Mood and Sleep?

The regulation of both mood and sleep involve the action of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The most well-known neurotransmitter is serotonin, sometimes called “the Happy Hormone”. Others are dopamine and norepinephrine.

When the actions of these chemicals are altered, mood changes can occur and mental health declines.

Similarly, sleep efficiency is affected and people may struggle to enter REM sleep — an important stage of sleep that aids learning, memory, and mental health.

Disturbances to the neurotransmitters can also cause people to feel restless and unable to sleep.


How Depression Affects Your Sleep

Depression, whether arising from life circumstances or medical disorders, can prevent consistent and restful sleep. It does so in a number of ways.

For example, people with depression may ruminate — repetitively go over a problem or distressing thought — which keeps them up at night. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety are almost guaranteed to interfere with sleep.

Depression can also have physical effects. In turn, these affect a person’s sleep. Loss of appetite or unexplained aches and pains make it difficult to nod off, or they contribute to night-time waking.

Excessive tiredness can also cause people to sleep late in the morning or take daytime naps, which further disrupt night-time sleeping. Lack of daytime activities compounds this problem.


How Poor Sleep Affects Your Mood

Research shows that long-term insomnia increases the risk of depression. This isn’t surprising when you consider that sleep is necessary for the regeneration of the body and the brain.

Poor sleep increases anxiety, fatigue, tension, and irritability. Research suggests that insomnia worsens the distress of unpleasant memories, which can exacerbate depression and anxiety.

Feeling fatigued also reduces the likelihood that people will exercise, eat well, and take part in social activities — all of which are important mood-boosters.

Insomnia and hypersomnia contribute to more severe and longer-lasting depression, and they may explain higher rates of depression in women and older adults.


What Can I Do? 

Because of the strong links between depression and poor sleep, treatment for one can often resolve the other.

Some people may need to take medication to treat these issues. Others may need to switch their medications because some drugs cause sleep problems.

Other treatments include:


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT can help treat insomnia, which in turn reduces the symptoms of depression. CBT works by helping people to change their thought patterns, which leads to emotional and behavioural change.

Research suggests that CBT for insomnia has more long-lasting benefits than medications, and its benefits extend beyond insomnia to improve overall well-being.

Learn more about CBT.


Start a Routine

Basic sleep hygiene involves having a bedtime routine — going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. Typically, this should include a winding-down period before going to bed.


Relaxation, Mindfulness, and Meditation

Improve the quality of your sleep by calming your mind before bed. Mindfulness techniques and breathing exercises are an excellent way to do this.

Learn more about the benefits of mindfulness.


Dietary Changes

What you eat can majorly impact your sleep. Most people are aware that coffee or alcohol before bed will reduce their sleep quality and quantity, but other dietary factors also play a role. Common ones include:

– Blood sugar fluctuations

– Food intolerances

– Lack of nutrients that promote restful sleep

Learn more about the link between diet and mental health.


Seek Help for Sleep Problems and Low Mood

Don’t let sleep issues go on for too long as they can lead to other physical and emotional problems.

See your doctor who can determine if there is an underlying physical cause that needs treatment. Counselling and psychotherapy can also help you to deal with your insomnia, along with any stress, depression, or anxiety that is interfering with a restful night’s sleep.


Want to address your sleep problems or depression? Contact me for queries or bookings.