Does sleep affect depression?

Does sleep affect depression? 

Does sleep affect depression?



It’s no secret that depression and sleep are both strongly connected and are closely linked. So, both end of the spectrum sleeping too much or too little can impact both your physical and mental health in ways you could never imagine. People with insomnia, for example, may have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression than people who get a good night’s sleep. And among people with depression, 75% have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. 



Which comes first? “Either one can be the starting point”. 



It is often seen that poor sleep may create difficulties regulating emotions that, in turn, may leave you more vulnerable to depression in the future months or even years from now. And depression itself is associated with sleep difficulties such as shortening the amount of restorative slow wave sleep a person gets each night. 



So, let us understand the connection between depression and sleep. 



Here is a case of a girl whhas been dealing and living with depression for nearly 8 years. Katelynn is a UNC- Chapel Hill graduate and is a lively and uninhibited girl. She is also a mental health advocate and writer who has been diagnosed with depression since 2013 and since then she is dealing with itShe explained how her sleeping pattern and daily life are affected by depression. However, her story made me feel overwhelmed, and I am going to share her story to offer hope that we all can live full lives in recovery. Katelynn is currently the engagement and outreach coordinator at her local affiliate at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)



She explained that one of the most debilitating symptoms of her depression is the ‘constant exhaustion’ she feels daily. So, no matter how much or little sleep she gets, she doesn’t feel rested or relaxed. So, basically it is a lingering brutal fatigue that follows her wherever she goes, and she constantly feels as though her energy is depleting slowly with every social event she attends, or any errand she runs into, or any work meeting she has. However, she feels “so tired and fatigued” and thus once in a week she texts her family members and friends about her health condition that how much exhausted she is. She has not yet figured out how to bring back her energetic self especially on days when she isfilled with too many commitments.



Who doesn’t love to sleep? Everybody does love to sleep and likewise, Katelynn always loved sleep as it was her favourite way to recharge herselfShe feels a good night’s sleep is such a peaceful way to relax yourself and your body and after having a good night’s sleep she used to feel so energetic respite from the hectic overwhelming parts of life ever since she could remember.



At my lowest, sleep was my haven, a place I could fall into where no pain, sadness, or anxiety exists. At my highest, my dreams can be magical world filled with joy. But during true depressive episodes, they often haven’t been. Instead, they have been dreadful places haunted by my biggest fears and emulating reality so well that I wake up disoriented” she said. 



However, her sleep patterns have been all over the place in the past years of her life while she was living with depressionSo, during her college timeshe used to sleep all the time by taking a mid-afternoon nap every day after class. She also explained that at night, she would sleep soundly but then suddenly wake up at 3 a.m. in tears and don’t know why. The real reason is a common problem known as “NIGHTMARES. She was haunted by nightmares that were so graphic and realistic, that she couldn’t comprehend what was real. For example, she used to have nightmares of spiders, robberies, plane crashes, school shootings, and her family and friends dying. She used to have ‘suicidal thoughts’ in her dreams that resulted in making her more distrustful of her  thoughts



“I’ve noticed that during my depressive or anxious episodes, nightmares eliminate the safety and comfort that comes with sleep” she explained. So, nightmares are not just something that affects you during the night instead they can ruin the entire next day or even a week. Horrible nightmares would often leave her awake for hours in the middle of the nightAnd then, when she woke up the next morning, she used to feel the tragedy of her dreams opening her eyes. 



How would my brain attack me so much during the night? How was it coming up with situations that felt so realistic? I would wake up feeling more depressed and exhausted. It never felt like I’d actually slept if I had a nightmare” she said.



Her therapist once explained to her that having severe nightmares was a small form of trauma and upon regaining consciousness in the morning and it also made sense because she used to have or felt symptoms closely related to post-traumatic stress disorder or (PTSD)Thus, with ruined sleep her sadness and exhaustion intensified, perpetuating her cycle of depression. 



But finally, the period of nightmares had decreased dramatically for her in the past 2 years. She had learned to avoid triggers like violent T.V or movies before bedtime.Usually when she’s about to sleep and her mind is racing, shepractices deep breathing and mindful visualization. She also tries to listen to relaxing music or read before bed. And yesof course, she is an adult, but she squeezes her stuffed animals when she’s too anxious to fall asleep. 



And she doesn’t know what exactly makes the nightmares pop up or disappear. Also, she hopes that they happen less and less as she gets older. But she knows that may not be the case. 



So, a good night’s sleep or nap is a beautiful thing, and of course, she doesn’t take that for granted. She explained that when she’s asleep for too long on weekend mornings or when she goes back to bed after breakfast, she often feels guilty.



“I am learning to accept that my depression requires me to need more sleep. And I’m also learning to be gentle with myself and just take the nap or go to bed early” she said. So, in a society that pushes the idea of productivity and involves us in constant stimulation, she has learned that ‘rest’ is productive. Thus, it allows her to regain some of the energy she loses throughout the day.  



“It makes me a better employee, a better friend, and partner. I can experience life more fully when I am rested. It makes my days brighter, my mind clearer, and life moments more cherished. It’s always worth it” she said.



Lastly, one should take sleep problems seriously and you should tell your doctor if you:



• Have trouble falling or staying asleep

• Also, if you are feeling tired all- day

• Have any physical pain, discomfort, or other complaints


In conclusion, one should get help for both depression and sleep. However, there is some evidence that lingering sleep problems in people undergoing depression treatment increase the risk of a slide back into depression. But the good news is according to some early evidence that CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia), along with depression treatment, improves sleep in people with depression and may increase the chances of remission of depression.




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