As we get older, sleep is a commodity that’s harder to come by, no matter how much you love it. Nothing is more appealing after a long day than crawling into bed under a warm blanket and drifting away from reality for a few hours. Not only does it feel good, but the importance of sleep can’t be understated. Sleep is an essential function as it allows your body and mind to recharge. Once you’ve squeezed in your six to eight hours, you’ll feel refreshed, alert, and ready to take on the day. A good night’s rest also ensures our body remains healthy and staves off disease or sickness. Without it, our brains won’t function properly, which can lead to serious problems.
Adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night, but those figures vary from one person to the next. In our younger years, it’s easy to fall asleep and stay asleep for up to 12 hours. However, it’s not as easy as we get older, especially if we’re struggling with our mental health. According to the Sleep Foundation, between 10 percent to 30 percent of adults struggle with chronic insomnia. It’s also believed that 30 percent to 48 percent of older adults have insomnia. There are many underlying causes for this sleep condition, some of which can range from sleep apnea to body weight, but can being depressed cause insomnia?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 21 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode, equating to 8.4 percent of all adults in the country. Depression most affected those ages 18 through 25, accounting for 17 percent of all U.S. adults. Depression is often associated with people sleeping too much. In many cases, individuals cannot muster up the energy to get out of bed, but is there a link between depression and insomnia?
Since depression can cause someone to sleep too much, it should not seem far-fetched that depression can also cause insomnia. Many people are under the impression that it’s something you can simply get over, but that’s not the case. The condition may only occur once in your life, but for others, it’s something that persists and affects all facets of their life. Below, we’ll examine the link between depression and insomnia.
What Is Insomnia?
The Mayo Clinic defines insomnia as a sleep disorder that makes it challenging to fall asleep, stay asleep, or causes you to wake up too early and be unable to fall back asleep. This can make you feel terrible the next day, have low energy, and perform poorly at work. Insomnia affects the quality of your life and can lead to the onset of illness. Although the need for how much sleep someone needs each night varies, insomnia ensures you will not get enough.
Insomnia is primarily acute and doesn’t last for long. However, it can last days, weeks, or even months for some. Insomnia typically stems from stress or a traumatic event, but those with long-term or chronic insomnia that lasts for a month or more may have other medical conditions like depression.
Depression and Sleep
If you’ve experienced depression in the short or long term, you can attest to the sleep difficulties you encountered. Those with the condition know how hard it is to fall asleep and stay asleep each night, especially when these horrible thoughts are running through your mind. It’s also common for you to deal with excessive daytime sleepiness and sleeping too much. Sleep problems can worsen your depression symptoms, while your depression can also cause your sleep problems to worsen. It’s a cruel cycle that’s hard to break.
While feelings of sadness can be a healthy reaction to negative external stimuli, these feelings often come in waves and are tied to challenging situations. People battling depression may not have anything bad going on in their lives, but depression follows a different pattern. If you experience these symptoms for two weeks or more every day, you might be experiencing a mood disorder called a depressive disorder or clinical depression. This includes feelings of disappointment, sadness, hopelessness, and other physical, emotional, or mental challenges that interfere with your life.
What Causes Depression?
Despite intensive research, the cause of depression is still misunderstood. Many people have what would appear on the outside as a perfect life yet battle severe depression. Some factors that influence the development of this mood disorder include a personal or family history of depression, experiencing trauma or other stress, medication, or specific illnesses.
Almost half of those diagnosed with depression have a family history of the condition. Genetics may also affect the function of neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Again, the causes are still unclear, but depression affects sleep and can lead to insomnia.
Depressive symptoms vary from one person to another, but they typically include changes in mood and other physical changes. These can interfere with daily activities and include the following:
- Feeling hopeless and filled with guilt
- Persistent low, sad, or irritable mood
- Fatigue and decreased energy levels
- Loss of interest in activities that once brought joy
- Inability to concentrate
- Insomnia, or waking up too early
- Overeating or low appetite
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression is more common in women than men, and the symptoms can differ between the two. Men are more likely to exhibit anger and irritability, while women are filled with guilt and sadness.
Types of Depression
Not all depression is alike. While losing interest and feeling sad is common in all depressive disorders, the severity of its symptoms and forms of depression vary. The most widely known type of major depressive disorder (MDD) is marked by signs that affect someone every day for an extended period. It often involves sleep disruptions.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD), also known as chronic depression, consists of fewer symptoms than major depression, but these symptoms can last for two years. Other types of depression include seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
How Does Depression Affect Sleep?
Unfortunately, sleep and depression are connected. Almost everyone with depression will experience problems with sleep. For that reason, doctors are reluctant to diagnose depression if someone doesn’t experience sleep issues. The two have a bidirectional relationship, meaning poor sleep can lead to the development of depression. It also implies that depression can make someone more likely to develop sleep issues. This relationship makes it hard to determine which came first.
Sleep issues that depression causes include hypersomnia, insomnia, and obstructive sleep apnea. However, insomnia is the most common and affects three-quarters of those with depression. Many people with depression can go back and forth between experiencing hypersomnia or insomnia during a depression episode.
Sleep problems can lead to depression due to changes in how neurotransmitters like serotonin function. Disruptions in sleep can also affect how our body reacts to stress, cause problems with circadian rhythms, and increase the odds you become depressed. Fortunately, if you seek help for depression, you’ll also notice an improvement in your sleep.
How Are Depression and Insomnia Treated?
It’s no secret that depression can wreak havoc on your sleep and quality of life; it can be treated. However, you must reach out for help from a doctor or mental health provider to help you understand what kind of depression you’re dealing with, the severity, and the best course of treatment. These can include the following:
- Counseling: Depression can be treated with various counseling types, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT). These will help your depression and chronic insomnia.
- Medication: Antidepressant medication is an effective treatment for depression. Keep in mind that they aren’t an immediate fix. It will take time to adjust to the medication before you see an improvement in your symptoms. You might need to experiment with various antidepressants before you find one that works.
- Brain stimulation therapy: Medication and therapy may not always be enough. You might also need brain stimulation therapy to help you overcome the worst of your symptoms. These treatments are often effective when nothing else is but can only be provided under the guidance of a trained medical professional.