Depression and sleep
sleep issues

Depression and sleep

sleep medicine

Depression and sleep can be a complicated combination. When depression is present, sleep difficulties are more likely to occur. Sleep problems often increase the severity of depressive symptoms over time. With this in mind, it’s important for people with sleep difficulties to seek treatment from a sleep specialist or psychiatrist who specializes in sleep medicine or mental health issues, respectively.


Feelings of sadness, bitterness, or hopelessness are sometimes a healthy response to life’s difficulties. These feelings generally come in cycles, are linked to thoughts or reminders of unpleasant circumstances, last for only a short while, and do not affect school, job, or social interactions.

These emotions follow a different pattern in depression. When they persist for more than two weeks, are experienced nearly every day, and last for most of the day, they might be connected to a class of mood illnesses referred to as depressive disorders. Also known as clinical depression, depressive illnesses are characterized by sadness, disillusionment, and despair; as well as other emotional, mental, and physical changes that make it difficult to engage in daily activities.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the world’s most common cause of disability, affecting roughly 4.4% of the global population. Anxiety is the second-most-common mental illness in the United States, followed by depression. Many individuals who suffer from depression are aware that it has a significant influence on their sleep and general quality of life.

The link between sleep disturbances and depression

Depression and sleeping are linked inextricably. Almost every person who suffers from depression experiences problems sleeping. In fact, doctors may be hesitant to label melancholy unless they are presented with complaints regarding sleep.

Sleep disorders and depression have a bidirectional relationship. This implies that sleep deprivation can lead to depression, and that having depression makes you more prone to sleep disturbances. Because of this tangled connection, determining which occurred first, sleeplessness or sadness, may be difficult.

The most common sleep problems linked to depression include insomnia, hypersomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea. Insomnia is the most prevalent type of sleep issue among people with depression, affecting about 75% of them. According to some researchers, around 20% of individuals suffering from depression have obstructive sleep apnea and 15% have hypersomnia. Many times, sleep problems are the first sign that someone is suffering from depression.

Sleep problems might lead to depression by altering the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Sleep disruptions can affect the body’s stress system, disrupting circadian rhythms and raising risk for depression.

Fortunately, people who have been treated for severe depression frequently report enhanced sleep quality.

What causes depression?

sleep disturbances

Researchers aren’t sure what causes depression, but there are a number of circumstances that might raise the likelihood of getting it. Having a personal or family history of sadness, feeling tremendous stress or traumas, taking specific medicines, and having certain diseases are all examples of risk factors.

Up to half of persons with depression suffer from a family history of the disease. A person’s genes might influence the activity of neurotransmitters involved in depression, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Types of depressive disorders

All depressive disorders create significant sadness or a loss of interest in normal daily activities. The severity of symptoms and the context in which they arise determine specific types of depression.

  • The most recognized kind is major depressive disorder, which is characterized by symptoms that a person experiences virtually every day for a lengthy period of time. It’s common to experience sleep difficulties as a result of it.
  • Dysthymia or chronic depression, also known as persistent depressive disorder, is a type of mood illness characterized by modest symptoms that endure for at least two week.
  • Although major depressive disorder (MDD) affects approximately 16 percent of the global population at any given time, other types of depression, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder and seasonal affective disorder, come and go over shorter timescales.

The health risks associated with depression and sleep 

sleep disturbances

If left untreated, depression and sleep difficulties can have a detrimental impact on your physical health. Sleep deprivation was found to be linked to an increased risk of early death in a 2010 research. Sleep deprivation raises the risk of heart disease and failure, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.

Depression can narrow blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease. People who are depressed may have a weakened immune system, pains and aches, and tiredness.

What are the symptoms of depression?

The physical changes that can be identified in depressed people include aching muscles and bones, low energy levels, reduced appetite and sleep problems. Depression symptoms may also include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia, waking up too early, or oversleeping
  • Low appetite or overeating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Persistent sad, low, or irritable mood

Depression is more common among women, and the symptoms of depression may vary depending on gender and age. Men frequently experience irritability and rage, whereas females are more likely to be sad and guilty. Depression in adolescents might manifest as aggravating behavior or difficulty at school, while toddlers who fear their parents dying may act sick or worry that they will die themselves.

How is depression diagnosed?

Because depression is a medical condition that must be diagnosed by a doctor, those who are experiencing signs of depression should talk to their doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist. They may ask about the degree of the symptoms and how long they’ve been present. They could also offer tests to help them better understand your situation and track changes or improvements over time.

To help determine whether depression is caused by an underlying sleep problem, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, a provider may suggest that patients see a specialist in sleep disorders.

How is depression treated?

sleep disturbances

Depression has both immediate and long-term effects on a person’s sleep, mood, and overall quality of life. It may be treated, although its potential consequences can be severe. Treatment may include:


Several types of counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), can help individuals with depression. Chronic insomnia is addressed by CBT for insomnia (CBT-I).


Antidepressants are a good treatment for depression. These prescription medicines generally take some time to start working and can help relieve symptoms gradually. Patients may have to try various antidepressants before finding one that works well for them. A doctor or psychiatrist can advise on the suitability of these medications and suggest a certain kind.

Brain stimulation therapy:

Some persons with depression search for alternative therapies, including electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or other, more recent types of brain stimulation, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), when medications and other treatments fail. These procedures might be beneficial; however, they must be administered by a knowledgeable expert.

Treatment may often be not limited to one of these approaches; in fact, the combination of medications and psychotherapy has been linked to a better outcome than any single therapy.

Tips for sleeping better

sleep disturbances

Take a nap carefully

The urge to take a nap during the day may be caused by restless or fickle sleep at night. According to studies, the ideal sleep duration is 10 to 20 minutes, which is known as “intense sleep.” This intense sleep can help us control our emotions, reduce drowsiness, and boost productivity in general. However, it’s critical that your slumber isn’t too lengthy. A nap that lasts more than 20 minutes will prevent you from falling asleep; a nap that lasts less than 10 minutes does not provide enough benefit for the time invested.

Talk to a therapist

There are several types of treatment that can help you manage depression and alter your sleep attitude. Cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and psychodynamic therapy are three therapeutic models that might be used to deal with some of the underlying emotions and concerns that contribute to sadness. Mental health specialists may also recommend certain lifestyle changes to help reduce the symptoms of depression and give you strategies for dealing with restless sleepless nights.

Develop good sleep hygiene habits

Good sleep hygiene habits can also help you sleep longer and more soundly. A few changes to your daily habits and your bedtime routine can make a big difference.

Avoid alcohol

A glass of wine or finger of brandy is often used as a tool for relaxation, as well as a way of coping with anxiety or depression. However, alcohol consumption disrupts your sleeping pattern, so you are more likely to wake up during the night.

While a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, it won’t improve your ability to stay asleep over the course of the entire night or make you feel refreshed the next day.

Meditate and relax

Depression may cause you to ruminate, or think about the same ideas over and over, which might make it difficult to fall asleep. Meditation techniques or other relaxation exercises might assist you relax and prepare to go asleep.

Many individuals reported applying eyedrops, drinking water, and resting. Water may help reduce inflammation. Other suggested treatments include yoga exercises or deep abdominal breathing. To unwind for about an hour before bedtime, turn off all electronics, take a warm shower or bath, and decompress ahead of time.

Spend time outside during the day

Spending time in natural light during the day can help your circadian rhythm. Light has an effect on the internal biological clock that controls sleep-wake cycles; as light levels decrease at night, your body releases melatonin.

The sun’s rays signal your brain and body to wake up in the morning. If you spend all of your time indoors in the dark, you may have sleeping difficulties. Regular exercise or treatment for depression can also assist with sleep issues and mental health, as long as it isn’t done right before bedtime.

Journal about your worries

If relaxation strategies aren’t working, take a notepad and record the negative ideas. This is everything that might keep you awake as your brain goes through it repeatedly.

You might also designate a specific time before bed as your “worry time,” allowing you to really cleanse your mind.

Tips for coping with depression

underlying sleep disorder

There are a few things you may do on your own to deal with depression, such as talking to your doctor about medication:

  • Exercise: Even 10 minutes of walking a day might help you feel better and be healthier. For some persons who suffer from mild or moderate depression, exercise may just as effectively treat the condition as an antidepressant.
  • Depression can feel very lonely, so be sure to surround yourself with people who care about you. Spend time with others and discuss your problems; don’t isolate yourself.
  • Be realistic: even with therapy, symptoms of depression may gradually subside.

Depression can cause you or someone you know to have thoughts of suicide. If you or someone you know is in need of emergency assistance, the National Suicide Rescue Line provides 24/7 free and confidential support.

Frequently asked questions

Do people with depression have problems sleeping?

Yes, people with depression often have sleep difficulties. They may find it hard to fall asleep or they may wake up frequently during the night. Poor sleep can make the symptoms of depression worse.

What if sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques aren’t working?

If sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques are not helping you sleep, then try writing down the negative thoughts that keep you awake. You can also designate a specific time before bed as your “worry time” when you can really cleanse your mind of all these thoughts. If depression is causing poor sleep, it is important to seek treatment from a doctor. Treatment for depression can assist with sleep issues and mental health as long as it is done correctly. Although symptoms of depression may gradually subside over time, it is important to seek help if you are feeling suicidal. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/ seven free and confidential support.

Is oversleeping bad for depression?

Yes, sleep problems can make the symptoms of depression worse. If you sleep more than usual and it doesn’t feel good to wake up, this may be a sign that your body isn’t getting enough sleep.


Depression and sleep difficulties often go hand-in-hand. Left untreated, sleep deprivation may worsen your symptoms of depression, making it more difficult to manage the condition. However, there are many ways to get help for both sleep problems and depression. Working with a mental health specialist can assist in developing a treatment plan that addresses both issues. There are some easy changes you can make to sleep better and feel healthier.


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