Depression and sleep problems are often inextricably linked. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help get sleeping back on track. Insomnia, an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, is common among depression sufferers, while a smaller percentage of people with depression tend to sleep excessively. Studies also suggest that people with insomnia are at a high risk for developing a depressive disorder. It's estimated that more than 80 percent of people with depression have problems sleeping or suffer from ongoing insomnia. And, as with other depressive disorders, insomnia occurs more often in women than in men. When insomnia occurs, it may interfere with deep sleep, during which the body realizes valuable restorative emotional and physical benefits. Equally vital is rapid eye movement sleep (REM) sleep, which is associated with processing emotions and relieving stress. In contrast, depression sufferers typically find themselves preoccupied with negative thoughts, which tends to exacerbate their insomnia. And lying awake all night dwelling on problems often makes matters worse. Recovery from depression, however, may be dependent on addressing sleep problems. And the first step is talking with a doctor about your insomnia. You should also have a thorough physical exam to rule out any medical illness that may be causing your symptoms. One reason it's important to discuss sleeping problems with your doctor or mental health professional is that many depression medications, including serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, like Paxil and Prozac, may result in sleep problems. Another reason is that sleep disorders may complicate depression treatment. For example, many mental health professionals prefer to treat depression and insomnia with an SSRI, along with a sedating antidepressant. However, people with both depression and obstructive sleep apnea symptoms need to avoid sedating antidepressants. An additional type of medication that's prescribed for people with insomnia includes the class of drugs known as hypnotics, which includes Ambien, Sonata and Restoril. However, these drugs are typically recommended only for short-term use. The good news is that depression treatment typically involves a combination of medication AND psychotherapy that includes cognitive-behavioral therapy. And cognitive-behavioral therapy also shows up to an 80 percent success rate in helping insomnia sufferers. In addition to medication, experts say sleep may be improved through meditation, yoga, relaxation or deep-breathing techniques, and as well by regular exercise as long as it's well before bedtime. Other sleep-inducing tips include: eliminating caffeine, alcohol or nicotine during evening hours; a warm shower before bedtime; using your bedroom only for sleeping or sexual activity keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature; using a white noise machine, black-out shades, earplugs or sleep mask. If you're suffering from depression and insomnia, it's important to know that both are treatable. Please see your doctor or mental health professional for help.
A Little Help for Little Not-Sleepyheads
Back to School Requires Better Sleep
Give Your Heart a Good Night’s Sleep
Natural Snooze Safer Than Medicated Sleep
Are You an Owl or a Lark?
Sweeter Dreams with Back Arthritis
Just the Blues or Depression?
Sleeping for Sanity
Last Updated:December 20, 2012