Sleep and depression are intrinsically linked. Many people who live with depression experience some form of sleep problem. Depressive symptoms and sleep quality have a bi-directional relationship, meaning depression can easily cause sleep issues, and prolonged sleep issues can quickly worsen depression.
If you live with depression and/or have problems getting enough sleep at night, keep reading to learn more about the nuances between depression and sleeping too much or too little.
We’re also including steps you can take to alleviate sleep depression and enhance sleep quality, so you’re well-rested and in a positive state of mind every morning, ready to take on the world.
The Relationship Between Depression and Sleep
For anyone who experiences sleeping all day depression, it might be difficult to discern which came first: the depression or the sleep difficulty.
According to the Sleep Foundation, changes in the neurotransmitter serotonin might contribute to depression that’s caused by a sleep problem. In addition, sleep disruptions may significantly alter the circadian rhythm and increase someone’s vulnerability to depression.
“People who experience depression often notice that their sleep patterns are impacted by their depression and that their depression is impacting their ability to sleep well. Given that sleep hygiene is crucial to our well-being, it’s important to address all aspects of depression symptoms with a medical or mental health professional.”Talkspace therapist Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
Sleep Issues Associated with Depression
The most common sleep depression problems involve:
- Hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Insomnia (issues falling or staying asleep at night)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
It’s estimated that roughly 15% of adults who have depression symptoms also experience hypersomnia. A whopping 75% of people with depression experience insomnia, and about 20% have OSA.
According to research, many people who live with depression will often fluctuate between insomnia and hypersomnia. As noted, chronically poor sleep can contribute to interrupted circadian rhythm and disrupted functioning of the neurotransmitter called serotonin, both of which are known to either cause or exacerbate depression.
“People who experience depression often have difficulty sleeping in many ways, either falling asleep, staying asleep, or even getting too much sleep. Struggling with sleep is often frustrating and contributes to feeling depleted. It’s important to discuss your sleep patterns with your medical or mental health professional to explore options that can help.”Talkspace therapist Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a sleeping disorder known as hypersomnia is characterized by prolonged nighttime sleep or excessive daytime sleepiness that feels uncontrollable.
Sleep depression that’s caused by hypersomnia typically isn’t life-threatening in and of itself, but it can result in poor concentration and prolonged lethargy. In extreme cases, sleep deprivation might even possibly lead to life-threatening acts, like falling asleep while operating a vehicle or machinery or committing self-harm.
Insomnia is a blanket term used to describe when someone has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough good sleep.
Insomnia can occur in even the best sleeping environments. It can cause you to lie awake at night for hours, which can result in incredible difficulty staying awake or being able to perform well during your daytime waking hours.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) notes that memory and concentration can be greatly impacted by insomnia. It can also have severe health consequences, too. As a result of chronic insomnia, you might be more likely to develop high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) involves repeated starting and stopping of the breathing process during sleep. OSA can be a fairly serious medical condition that causes the throat muscles to relax into collapse, which can then block the airway while you’re asleep.
With or without depression, OSA is much more prevalent in people who are obese, in comparison to those who are of a healthier weight. According to scientists at the University of Perugia, chronic OSA is associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and, yes, depression.
Sleeping Too Much From Depression
As you can see, the bidirectional relationship between depression and sleeping too much is well established by research. If you or a loved one is experiencing what can only be described as sleeping all day depression, it’s important that you take it seriously. Left unaddressed, both depression and a lack of restful sleep can culminate in poor or deteriorating overall declining health.
“While many people report insomnia as the primary concern associated with depression, it’s important to understand that some people experience sleeping too much while depressed. They may find it difficult to get out of bed and while they may sleep a lot of hours, it’s still not restful or restorative sleep. Discussing strategies with your medical or mental health professional can help with the sleep and depression symptoms.”Talkspace therapist Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R
Finding Your Way to Better Sleep and Mental Health
Depression, sleep and mental health all go hand in hand. There are various self-care practices that can help you improve sleep depression. If you’re struggling to implement a healthy sleep habit in your life, try any of the following techniques to see if they can help you consistently get a better night’s rest.
- Beautifying and enhancing the peacefulness of your sleeping environment
- Avoiding stimulating foods and beverages before bedtime
- Restricting your bedroom for intimacy and sleeping only
- Routinely practicing mindfulness meditation
- Diffusing calming essential oils
- Playing white noise or using a sound machine
- Avoiding screen time for at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime
- Setting (and sticking to) sleep and wake times
- Reading before bed to relax your mind
- Journaling to release the stress of the day
All of this said, depression is a serious mental health condition, and sometimes, even with self-care practice in place, professional help is necessary.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTi) is a detailed, effective form of therapy for depression and is known for its efficacy in treating insomnia. It’s been found to positively affect mood and decrease sleep depression symptoms. CBTi helps by improving and enhancing restful sleep, thereby lessening the frequency and/or intensity of related depressive symptoms.
To keep learning about depression and sleeping too much or too little, be proactive in seeking treatment. Think about self-care. Consider therapy. Above all, make your sleep a priority.
Working with a skilled therapist, either in-person or online, can help you learn how to regulate your sleep and mood, so you can drastically minimize the symptoms of depression you might be experiencing in relation to your poor sleep habits.
Talkspace offers online therapy for busy people looking for mental health help, without having to spend time going to and from appointments. Affordable, convenient, accessible therapy is literally at your fingertips when you use Talkspace’s online platform. Our therapists are skilled and readily available, so reach out today to start on a journey to a healthier you.