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Depression And Sleep – What’s the Link?

Sleep problems are common with depression. Read on to discover what's the link between depression and sleep.

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People who have experienced depression know just how challenging this condition is, and how it may affect sleep.

People with depression have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep during the night.

They may also experience excessive daytime sleepiness or even sleep too much.

At the same time, sleep problems can lead to depression, creating a strong negative cycle between depression and sleep, which can be more than challenging to break.

The relationship between sleep and depression is complex, but understanding it can be an important step in improving sleep quality and dealing better with depression.

What is Depression?

Strong feelings of sadness, disappointment, or even hopelessness can be a healthy reaction to life’s challenges.

These feelings come in waves and are usually linked to thoughts or reminders of a challenging situation.

In most cases, they last for a short period of time and don’t interfere with school, work, or relationships – something that everyone can easily connect with. In depression, these feelings have a completely different pattern.

When the symptoms last for more than two weeks and are felt almost every day (and remain for most of the day) they may be directly related to a group of mood disorders called depressive disorders.

Depressive disorders include strong feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and disappointment, as well as other emotional, mental, and physical changes that may lead to difficulties with regular, everyday activities.

So far, depression is the leading cause of disability globally, directly affecting 4.4% of the world’s population.

Did you know that after anxiety, depression is the second-most-common mental health issue in the United States?

As many people with depression, and those from their surroundings, know depression can strongly affect a person’s sleep and overall quality of life.

What Causes Depression?

No matter how much knowledge we have today and how advanced the technology is, some things are still unknown, as the cause of depression.

Up to date, no one can claim the exact cause of depression. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of depression.

Some of the most common links are experiencing major trauma, significant stress, taking certain medications, and having specific illnesses.

Also, family history plays a huge role, because a person’s genetics may affect the function of neurotransmitters that are linked to depression, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Depression Symptoms

The symptoms of depression can include both physical and mood changes. These changes can affect a person’s well-being and daily activities. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Irritable mood
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • General loss of interest
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Oversleeping
  • Waking up too early
  • Overeating
  • Low appetite
  • Strong thoughts of suicide or death

For still unknown reasons, depression is more common in women and in men, but there are no differences in the symptoms of depression based on sex and age.

Men can experience slightly different symptoms, such as anger and irritability, while women can frequently experience guilt and sadness.

In adolescents, depression may be strong, provoking irritation and lead to significant troubles in school.

Depression may even occur in younger children and in those cases, children may pretend to be sick or worry that a parent may die.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

Depression can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. So, whenever you experience some of the symptoms you should talk to your doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist.

Only medical professionals can tell you what’s your mental and physical state.

To determine your conditions, they may ask about the symptoms, for how long you might be experiencing them, then they may ask different questions on your medical and family history and may order blood work.

A doctor may ask you to describe your moods, your appetite, to describe your energy level during the day, if you have been exposed to some stress, and whether you have ever thought about suicide.

You may also expect a physical exam to determine if the cause of your symptoms is maybe caused by another illness.

You may also see a sleep specialist in sleep disorders to help conclude if there is an underlying sleep disorder, such as nocturia, restless leg syndrome, or even sleep apnea, that may be causing depression or contributing to symptoms.

Types of Depressive Disorders

Feelings of sadness or a loss of interest in daily activities are common in all depressive disorders. Specific forms of depression always vary based n the severity of symptoms.

The most well-known type is major depressive disorder, and it’s marked by symptoms that affect the person virtually every day for a longer period of time. As a result, it commonly involves sleep disruptions.

Some people may experience chronic depression, which is a persistent depressive disorder and involves symptoms that can last for two years.

Other types of depression, such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder and seasonal affective disorder tend to appear fast and stay for a short period of time but can also include significant sleeping problems.

How are Depression and Sleep Related?

Depression and sleep are tightly connected.

Almost everyone with any form of depression experience sleep issues. In fact, doctors may hesitate to diagnose depression if there is an absence of complaints about sleep.

Depression and sleep are linked, meaning that poor sleep can contribute to the development of depression and push a person with depression to experience sleep issues.

Common sleep issues that are linked with depression include insomnia, hypersomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea.

So far, insomnia is the most common one, then comes sleep apnea, and hypersomnia.

An inability to sleep is one of the key signs of clinical depression. Another sign is sleeping too much or oversleeping.

Lack of sleep plays a huge role in a person’s life and it can affect a person’s health and well-being. Also, the lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse.

An inability to sleep for a long period of time is an important clue that someone may be depressed.

Sleep issues may contribute to the development of depression through significant changes in the function of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Luckily, people who are treated for major depression often report improved quality of their sleep.

How is Depression Treated?

Depression directly affects a person’s sleep and overall quality of life. Although it can mess up someone’s daily activities, it is great to hear that depression can be treated and cured.

Depending on the type and severity of depression treatment may include:

  • Counseling: various counseling types can be used to treat depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) is a type of CBT that focuses on managing chronic insomnia.
  • Medications: over-the-counter medicine won’t help with treated depression. Only the medicine prescribed by your doctor is an effective one. For example, antidepressants are usually very effective treatments for depression. These medications take time before they begin to improve symptoms, and usually, patines must try several antidepressants before finding the right fit.
  • Brain stimulation therapies: when counseling and medications aren’t effective, some people may try electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or other, more recent types of brain stimulation like repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). These treatments may be effective, but they should be used only under the guidance of a trained professional.

Treatment often isn’t limited to just one of these approaches. One cure doesn’t fit everyone, so trying different approaches and solutions are imperative.

Only by testing different solutions, one can be sure what fits best. In fact, only by combining medication and psychotherapy can the best results be achieved.

Tips for Sleeping Better

Sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression and strong and persistent sleep issues can increase the risk of relapse in people who have successfully been treated for depression.

As a result, taking certain steps to sleep better can have a very beneficial effect on mood.

So, improve and focus on improving sleep hygiene if you want to improve sleep quality. Here is what you can do:

  • Have a sleep routine and stick to it even during the weekends.
  • Replace coffee with late-night tea that promotes sleep.
  • Avoid electronics in the evening.
  • If possible, don’t use your phone/laptop/tablet in your bedroom.
  • Keep your bedroom distractions free.
  • Adjust bedroom temperature.

Tips for Coping with Depression

Next to searching for professional help and talking to a provider about possible treatment, there are several steps that you can take on your own:

  • Exercise: regular exercise can do wonders for your health. Moreover, low-intensity exercise, even regular walking, can lead to better mood and physical health. For some people with mild to moderate depression, exercise works as an antidepressant, just a healthier and cheaper option. You should avoid heave exercise before bedtime because it can put additional stress on your sleep schedule.
  • Support: experiencing depression is difficult, so having the right support system can do wonders. Make sure that you talk with people about your problem. This way you will know that you are not alone, and you will discover many who go through the same things as you d, and much more. It’s important not to isolate yourself.
  • Be realistic: Improvement is possible, as long as you follow what your doctor tells you to do. Remember that success comes gradually.

Some people may deal with depression better than others, which is why the right support system is too important. Having depression can increase the thought of suicide, in some cases.

If you feel that your life is too much to deal with now, or you know someone who is in crisis, make sure that you contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

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