The Link Between Depression and Sleep
We are going to get a little serious in this blog post. Millions of people across the globe deal with depression on a daily basis, and with the current crisis, we can only expect those numbers to rise as people lose loved ones, experience job loss, or deal with extreme pressure at work. What does this have to do with sleep, you may be asking? Well, everything really. Sleep is very closely connected to depression, so much so that doctors often hesitate to diagnose a person with depression if there has been no change to their sleep patterns. Our goal in this post is help those of you that may be struggling now and also for those that are curious about the effects of depression on sleep.
What is Depression and What are the Causes?
Depression can be defined as feelings of loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, or disappointment that last for a long period of time. Experiencing these emotions are completely natural and are a part of everyone’s life. Usually, they last for a while and then dissipate after a certain amount of time has passed, and life continues on as normal. It’s when these emotions don’t go away that can give rise to concern and start to interfere with many different areas of life such as work, school, and relationships. The exact cause of depression is unknown but certain research has concluded that individuals with a family history of depression are at greater risk. Depression affects 4.4% of the world’s population and is the leading cause of disability. If you are experiencing depression, rest assured that you are one of many and that there are people out there that can help you.
Depression’s Sleep Connection
Depression and sleep fall victim to the chicken and egg scenario. It is possible that because an individual is suffering from depression that their sleep has also been affected. It is also just as likely that since they developed a poor sleeping pattern, they became depressed. In fact, many that seek out professional help complain about both issues whether they sought out a sleep expert or a psychological counselor. This is why it is so important to monitor your sleep and note any major changes when they occur. And by “poor sleeping patterns,” we mean feeling tired after sleeping through the night, insomnia, and not being able to fall asleep quickly. Poor sleep is a catalyst for downward mood shifts, inability to concentrate, and fatigue, which are all common symptoms that people with depression exhibit. People often equate insomnia and little sleep with depression, but hypersomnia is also a common symptom where individuals sleep excessively.
Depending upon how long your depression lasts, you might need to consult your doctor to understand the severity of the situation. Depression is serious and may require counseling or medication to effectively treat the condition. If you feel that you have a mild case of depression that has not persisted for long but is affecting your sleep, we do have some tips for you. Keep in mind that these are not guaranteed to help you but are generally good tactics to use to improve your quality of sleep.
- Exercise – If you are not currently doing any exercise try to implement at least 10 minutes of light training into your schedule. Go for a walk outside during your lunch break or in the morning before starting work. You might be surprised to find that you feel much better just from being outside and being more active than usual. Exercise has been routinely recommended as a natural antidepressant by many experts. Your body also needs to be tired before you go to bed and if you have been mostly sitting all day, then it may not be quite ready to sleep at your normal bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine – Both of these substances will keep you alert and can disrupt your sleep pattern. It can be especially hard to avoid them when you wake up feeling tired or if you did not sleep well the night before. Do your best to make it through the day without either of these, and most likely you will sleep much better the following night. Be aware that it can take up to 5 hours or more for caffeine to fully exit your system. If you decide that you must have a coffee or cigarette, do so in the morning and stop yourself from consuming nicotine or caffeine after lunch.
- Stick to Your Sleep Schedule – It can be difficult to consistently go to bed at the same hour every night especially when you are sleep deprived, but it is very important that you commit to this. Going to bed too early can result in you waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Going to bed too late will not allow you to get enough rest before your waking hour. Our bodies have a built-in sleep clock known as circadian rhythm, so it knows when you should be going to bed. Disrupting the schedule will result in poorer sleep quality and that’s not what we want. Set an alarm if you need about 30 minutes before going to bed. This will give you enough time to finish whatever you are doing and prepare yourself for bed.
We hope this post was able to enlighten some of you that are either struggling with depression or were interested about the topic as it relates to sleep. Remember to take care of yourself and seek out the help you need when times are rough. We can all do more to be kinder to ourselves and talk to others when we feel overwhelmed. Wishing you and your loved ones a beautiful week and I’ll catch you in the next one!