Depression affects different individuals differently. Higher rates of depression and sleeping problems in older adults can be attributed to higher rates of existing physical illness. Hormonal changes in women during pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause can also contribute to higher rates of depression. Insomnia can also be attributed to higher rates of depression in women and older adults. Research shows depression can also cause severe chronic health issues, including sleeping problems and heart diseases.
Symptoms of depression
The most common depression symptoms can vary from person to person and include the following:
Feeling hopeless and sad
Suicidal thoughts and behavior
Loss of interest in activities
Lack of concentration
Changes in weight and appetite
Sleeping too much or too little
Depression can co-occur with anxiety, low self-esteem, and back pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Insomnia is quite common in people who have depression. Depression is classified as ‘Major’ if at least five of these symptoms are experienced for two weeks or more. Researchers and mental health professionals link insomnia with depression as well as reduced quality of life. Insomnia can make symptoms of depression worse, while depression can increase sleeping problems. Insomnia can also cause anxiety, stress, exhaustion, irritation, and frustration.
How Are Sleep and Depression Linked?
Sleeping problems or insomnia can be considered a symptom while diagnosing depression. Almost 15% of people with depression either sleep too much or too little. However, lack of sleep or insomnia cannot be the sole contributing factor to depression but plays a significant role. Sleeping problems due to other health conditions can worsen depression.
What Causes Depression?
Not one but several factors are responsible for causing depression, including a family history of depression or other mental health conditions, abnormalities in the brain that control and regulate mood, other mental health, and physical conditions, stress, substance abuse, lack of support from friends and family, and medications.
Sleep and depression- the complex relationship
Researchers and doctors have long studied the link between sleeping problems and depression. People with insomnia are ten times more likely to develop clinical depression and seventeen times more likely to have clinical anxiety. The risk of developing depression increases with the frequency of waking up at night.
In obstructive sleep apnea is also linked to depression, a condition in which people frequently wake up at night. A study analyzed almost 19000 people with obstructive sleep apnea revealed that the risk of developing clinical depression increases five times for people with obstructive sleep apnea. When sleep is continuously disrupted, it can affect the neurochemicals responsible for regulating mood. Sleeping problems or insomnia is not entirely caused by depression. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders in the U.S. that affects almost one out of every three adults. Women are more likely to have insomnia as compared to men, and the condition becomes more prevalent as people get older.
Adults require at least seven to nine hours of sleep at night. However, even without depression, the average Americans sleep for only 6.9 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Treatments available for depression and insomnia
The most effective treatment choice for depression is the combination of medications and psychotherapy. However, it depends on the severity of the disorder. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is also treated with medications, psychotherapy, or the combination of both. Drugs work more quickly in reducing and managing the symptoms, while psychotherapy is more effective in preventing the development of depressive symptoms in the future.
Medications used to treat depression include antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Tricyclic antidepressants (including Pamelor and Elavil), Serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and Novel antidepressants (such as bupropion). Psychotherapy for depression include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and interpersonal therapy,
Sleep disorders and depression can be treated with antidepressants, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Besides, your doctor can also prescribe hypnotic drugs or sedative antidepressants, a sleeping pill that can help people in getting adequate sleep. However, hypnotic drugs should not be taken for an extended period. Sedative-hypnotics are drugs that are used for treating sleeping problems and include Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta, and Restoril. An oral spray called Zolpimist, containing the active ingredients of Ambien and approved by the FDA, can also be used for the short-term treatment of insomnia. Psychotherapy also proves useful in improving the ability to fall asleep.
What Other Techniques Can improve sleeping problems?
In addition to drugs and psychotherapy, there are several other tips to improve sleep:
Learning to relax and meditation based on mindfulness
Planning out your next day in advance and clearing your mind of worries
Reduce or avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, particularly in the evening
If you cannot fall asleep, try getting out of bed and do something else. You can get back to bed when you start feeling drowsy.