One of the more common and pronounced symptoms of people suffering from depression is erratic sleeping patterns. In its simplest terms, people manifesting this symptom either sleep too little or sleep too much. Irregular sleeping patterns can directly affect our mood and disposition, exacerbating any signs of depression. The human body is a complex machine. Our different bodily systems, our psychology and physiology, interact with one another in such a way that the “cause” and “effect” of something might not be so clear-cut. An excellent example of this is the relationship between sleep and our physical and psychological health.
Sleeping returns the body to a much-needed restorative state. Loss of sleep, no matter how minimal, will affect your immunity. Thus, getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Chronic lack of sleep will put you at higher risk for many health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Having a good night’s sleep can improve your memory retention, ability to concentrate and focus, and will help your logical reasoning and overall cognitive ability. Getting enough hours of sleep every night is essential. The recommended amount is different for every stage of life but, generally, eight to ten hours is ideal.
Too much sleeping or a lack of sleep have genuine consequences for our physical health, as well as our mental health. Any sleep difficulty that disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm can mess with a person’s mood, disposition, energy, emotions, and even bring about suicidal thoughts. It’s hard to feel motivated and enthusiastic about your everyday life when you are in a depressive funk. This is a chemical imbalance, a real impairment of the brain. People cannot just snap out of it or will themselves out of depression.
If you start to feel depression setting in, you might want to check your sleeping habits.
Depression has no single cause, but it can be made worse by many factors that seem harmless. Case in point, your sleeping habits. Sleeping problems could be the culprit triggering your depressive episodes. It might not be the leading cause but, at the very least, bed sleeping habits may contribute to your depressive state. A single good night’s sleep won’t be enough to remedy this. Over time, poor sleeping habits can make you less motivated, irritable, and sad. The effects are not only internal. Irregular sleep patterns could very well damage your productivity at work or school or put a strain on your relationships. Many people going through depression have a hard time reaching out, and they might end up inadvertently pushing people away.
The connection between depression and sleep problems is complicated. Research has shown that people with insomnia and other sleep issues exhibit greater depressive symptoms, as well as anxiety.  For instance, sleep apnea can also exacerbate episodes of depression.
Sleep apnea is a condition wherein a person’s breathing is interrupted multiple time throughout the night. Sleep apnea is more than just loud snoring. During sleep apnea episodes, the airway will be blocked as the tongue falls back and covers the airway and the person is left gasping for air. The sleeper does not even know what is happening. During the REM stage of sleep, the brain is in deep sleep that helps restore the body. It is during the REM cycle that sleep apnea worsens. Those who have sleep apnea are often diagnosed with clinical depression. Studies show that this has something to do with the altered brain activity and neurochemicals from repeated interrupted sleep that will ultimately affect a person’s mood and emotions.
Don’t take sleep problems for granted, especially if you already have underlying mental health issues. If you have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, talk to your doctor about it immediately. You might need to be prescribed medication to help you sleep or antidepressants and some therapy.
How do you know if it’s sleep deprivation or depression?
Since there is a connection between sleep disorders and clinical depression, some people might have trouble distinguishing the two, especially if they have never been diagnosed.
Sleep deprivation is quite common. Many people regularly go through episodes of sleep deprivation when they are pulling all-nighters for work or studying, when taking care of a newborn, or when jet lagged. Sleep deprivation’s main symptom is daytime sleepiness, excessive yawning, irritability, feeling “fuzzy”, depressed mood, short-term memory loss, clumsiness, sluggishness, and increased appetite.
Recovering from an occasional night of sleeplessness is easy. But long-term sleep deprivation will directly affect your reasoning ability controlled by the prefrontal cortex. You may also have difficulty managing your emotions. You may experience mood swings, a negative disposition, and poor impulse control. The brain will have a difficult time performing and focusing. Some sleep-deprived people “binge eat”.
The good news is, sleep deprivation and its symptoms are relatively easy to treat. First and foremost, you must get your sleeping habits back on track. This might require some lifestyle adjustments or even medication, like over the counter drugs like melatonin or possibly even a prescription drug.
Depression typically includes a prolonged period where the person loses interest in their usual activities and are unable to experience pleasure in things they used to enjoy. The person may experience sudden weight loss or unexpected weight gain. Insomnia and hypersomnia (daytime sleepiness) are also common. Expect fatigue, exhaustion, and lack of energy and motivation as well. Depression may leave the sufferer with difficulty concentrating and the inability to make the most straightforward decisions. The difficult part about depression is the feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and excessive guilt that a person may experience. Persistent thoughts of suicide may accompany these feelings. The emotional symptoms of that come with depression are much more significant than the mood swings and irritability from sleep deprivation. Someone suffering from depression might have a hard time getting out of bed, socializing, and going about their usual routine.
Sleep deprivation and its symptoms will be remedied once you get back on a proper sleeping schedule. A depressive disorder requires medical intervention, therapy, and perhaps medication. Adequate sleep will help alleviate some of the symptoms, but it’s not the cure. A depressive episode, if it lasts more than two weeks, needs to be treated by a medical practitioner, especially if accompanied by persistent thoughts of suicide.
Managing sleep your sleep problems can have positive effects in alleviating your depression. Below are some tips that can alleviate your symptoms.
Getting regular exercise
Cultivate a habit of regular exercise. It doesn’t have to be anything strenuous. Even some light stretching will help. The point is consistency. This will help relieve anxiety and help you sleep better.
Meditation techniques can help you relax and let go of stress. This will help you empty your mind of all the stresses of the day and facilitate a good night’s sleep.
Limit your screen time
Your phone or laptop could be contributing to your insomnia. Try to avoid your gadgets so close to your bedtime. Tablets and mobiles can keep your mind stimulated, the glare of the screen will keep you awake as well.
Cut back on caffeine
Don’t ingest any caffeine after midday. This includes coffee and sodas. It’s a good idea to decrease your sugar intake as well. Check your medication for anything that could be keeping you awake at night.
Take warm showers
Warm showers at night will relax you and cool your body down. This will help put your body relax and fall asleep.
Set the mood in the bedroom
Keep your room clutter free and free from reminders of work or school. Your bedroom should only be for sleeping. Never take your work to your bedroom. Get blackout shades or curtains as well so your body can produce enough melatonin, the sleep hormone.
Living with persistent sleep troubles and clinical depression is a real challenge. Clinical depression is a dangerous illness. But depression and sleep problems can be managed with the right combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments. You can live full lives with this condition if you get the help you need and an adequate support system. Sleep disorders do not need to control your life. You can improve your quality of life by improving your sleep.