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Sleep and Depression – How Are They Interlinked?

Sleep-and-Depression

How many times have you thought that sleep is a waste of time? Are you guilty of pushing your body to go without sleep simply because you have chores to do or even because you want to watch that movie? You are not alone is disregarding sleep. Sleep is one of the most undermined things that people readily take for granted. However, sleep, both sleeplessness and oversleeping, is a cause of concern. Sleep is closely related to your health, both physical and mental, and cause severe impacts on both the faculties. This article will outline the relationship that sleep shares with your mental state, especially depression.

Sleep and Depression Defined

Before you try to understand the relationship shared between sleep and depression, it would be helpful to understand these two concepts individually:

Sleep: Sleep is defined as the naturally recurring state of your body in which there is a loss of consciousness, reduced muscle movement, and reduced environment interaction. Any disorder associated with sleep falls broadly under:

  • Sleep Deprivation: This is the condition when you sleep for a lesser number of hours than is demanded by your body. It is also known as sleeplessness or lack of sleep.
  • Over Sleeping: This is clocking in more hours of sleep than your body requires due to poor sleep quality.

Depression: Depression is a mood disorder. It causes persistent feelings of sadness and creates disinterest in anything and everything in your life. Generally characterized by intense sadness, remorse, and hopelessness, depression tends to cripple a person’s daily life as effectively if not more than any other medical illness. It is also known as “Major Depressive Disorder” or “Clinical Depression.”

WHO has currently pegged the number of people suffering from depression worldwide at a staggering 264 million and counting.

How Depression Affects Sleep?

As a child, chances are you never had trouble going to sleep. But as and how you grew, it started making you more and more effort just to fall asleep. There are hosts of the reason for this ranging from anxiety, stress to something severe like depression. Depression, apart from taking over your life, also takes over your sleep.

One of the most common and core symptoms of depression is sleep disorders. Approximately 75 percent of people with depression are known to have sleep problems. Some might have trouble getting to sleep, others might have trouble staying asleep, and some might even oversleep. Whatever the sleep problem, the fact is that depression disrupts your sleep pattern. These are discussed in detail below:

  • Insomnia: Insomnia is when you cannot fall or stay asleep. Depression causes anxiety and stress. It puts you in a sad, remorseful mood that is not conducive to getting or even staying asleep.
  • Hypersomnia: This is feeling excessively sleepy during the day or Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). Hypersomnia will cause you to feel abnormally sleepy during the day, even when you have had a good quality full night rest. Depression makes you excessively tired. This makes you want to sleep even during the day.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): OSA is a condition where the person stops breathing involuntarily during sleep for brief moments. A 2003 study involving 19,000 people concluded that depression increased your chances of getting OSA by up to 5 times. Further, a study conducted in 2017 of 182 people found that out of the 47 people with depression, 41 people also hade OSA symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

A 2006 study involving 25,000 people concluded a link between depression and people getting too little sleep or too much sleep.

How Sleep Affects Depression?

Sleep and depression share a two-way relationship with depression, causing sleep issues and sleep disorders leading to symptoms of depression. Sleep is when your body gets the chance to revive, refresh, and rejuvenate from the day’s event. It is during sleep that your body prepares itself for the next day.

When you do not get enough rest, your body gets thrown off track and comes under too much pressure. This throws your body into high levels of stress, anxiety, and a host of other behavioral issues, including depression.

Apart from this, sleeplessness impacts the hormone production function of your body, especially the happiness hormone “Dopamine.” This is a feel-good hormone and is how your brain “rewards” you. It is involved with pleasurable sensations. A 2007 review clearly links fall in the dopamine levels of your body with depression.

The co-relation as per various other clinical studies is discussed below:

  • Insomnia and Hypersomnia: A study in 2005 found that people with insomnia were ten times more likely to develop depression. Further, a 1997 study conclusively linked both insomnia and hypersomnia with increased suicidal thoughts and actions.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A 2009 study on OSA and depression found that nearly 21% to 41% of people getting treated for OSA exhibited signs of depression. Also, the risk of developing depression due to OSA increases with age. A study found that about 25% of people over 65 years of age suffering from OSA also developed depression.

Tips to Sleep Better Under Depression

You have to sleep. Sleeping elevates your mood and helps you overcome depression. However, sleeping is hard when you are depressed. Some pointers that can help you sleep better under depression are:

  • Calm the Mind: During the hours when sleep eludes you and anxiety threatens to overtake, you can use some techniques to calm yourself down. This will help you relax enough to drift into sleep. Some of these techniques are:
    • Conscious Relaxation: These include techniques meant to make you physically comfortable, like loosening your clothes, deep breathing, meditation, music, etc.
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps you overcome sleep problems by focusing on your behavior and thoughts. It helps you change your pattern before sleeping and assists you in keeping your thoughts attuned to your sleep needs. It trains your mind to focus on positive thoughts and ignore negative thoughts that prevent you from sleeping.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): This is a part of CBT. The difference lies in the fact that DBT focuses more on specific sensations and emotional and social aspects, whereas CBT is more general. DBT is used to help people with extreme behavior and social problems.
  • Concentrate on your body: It is important to stay attuned to your body. If you are not physically comfortable, then your chances of falling asleep even on good days are slim. Some pointers to keep you comfortable are:
    • Adjust the room temperature and keep it cool. Research shows that you sleep better under cool conditions.
    • Wear loose and light clothing, so you don’t feel wrapped in
    • Invest in good mattress, pillow and bed linen
  • Tone down your surroundings: Your sleep surroundings affect your ability to sleep tremendously. If your sleep surroundings are not comfortable then you will have problems falling asleep and staying asleep. Some things to bear in mind are:
    • Avoid having a TV in your bedroom. TV’s are known stimulants. They make your brain active and prevent you from relaxing enough to sleep.
    • Keep the ambiance nice and neutral. You should have bright colors and light in the room. Remember, the point is to relax enough to sleep.
    • Close the curtains and tone down any noise in your room.
    • Make sure there are no physical disturbances like a clock ticking or water dripping that can disturb you in the night.
  • Depression: Apart from this, you should also try to deal with the basic problem, which here is depression. Dealing with depression can also help cure your sleep problems. Some ways of doing this are:
    • Talk about your anxiety and fears with family and friends
    • No matter how much you might wish to down your sorrows in alcohol, avoid it
    • It might seem counter-intuitive, but nicotine will also not help with depression or sleep. Quit smoking or avoid it for at least a few hours before sleep.
    • Caffeine can help uplift your mood, but it is best taken a couple of hours before sleep so that it does not unnecessarily stimulate your senses.
    • Don’t underestimate meditation and yoga. They have been known to help keep your thoughts focused and keep you grounded to reality
    • Get some Vitamin D. Sunlight is a natural mood enhancer. It is difficult to perceive of anything going wrong when you are hit with the bright sunny rays.
    • Finally, consider getting professional help if all seems to fail.

Clearing Doubts

Some common queries are answered below to settle your mind.

Does depression cause you to oversleep as well?

Depression and sleep are closely related. One of the first signs and symptoms of depression is a sleeping disorder. This can be both sleeplessness and oversleeping. They are both related to mental health issues, and oversleeping may be a sign of clinical sleep disorder like hypersomnia, which in turn is a sign of clinical depression.

Does sleep affect your mental health?

Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Their relationship goes both ways. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation are associated with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sleep disorder both causes these mental health conditions and is a result of these conditions as well.

Is insomnia considered a mental health problem?

Insomnia is defined by the following characteristics:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It is not considered as an isolated mental or medical illness but rather viewed as a symptom of some other underlying medical issue.

Why can’t I stop thinking while trying to sleep?

The only way you can stop thinking altogether when conscious is by turning off your brain. However, research shows that it is impossible to shut off your brain while you are awake. Trying not to think makes you think even more. So, the trick when trying to sleep is not to concentrate on trying not to think but to think about neutral things that will not cause any anxiety or worry for you. This thinking pattern is conducive to sleeping and helps you stay asleep longer as well.

Bottom Line

Sleep is the most natural thing in the world that generally requires little to no effort on your part. It is as important a function as eating and breathing. The consequences of sleep go beyond, affecting just your physical body. Sleep penetrates the functioning of your brain as well and holds the potential to push you into depression. Hence smarten up and before sleep takes you to task catch up to those snoozes.

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