The link between sleep and depression

How Sleep and Depression Are Related

Sleep and depression are so intertwined that it’s hard to know if one causes the other or if they’re just associated.

Both insomnia and sleeping too much are symptoms that can help diagnose depression. Excessive fatigue during the day, called hypersomnia, is also a signal.

Sleep isn’t just something you do to feel alert during the day. It also allows your body to perform necessary biological repairs, affecting your immune systems, heart health, and other cell functions. Researchers and clinicians still aren’t sure what the exact relationship is between sleep and depression, but they do know there’s a link.

Let’s start with a few statistics:

Learn more about adult depression and anxiety from Behavioral and Mental Health Services at UPMC.

Can Lack of Sleep Complicate Depression?

If you’ve ever had a bad night of sleep, you probably know you don’t function well afterwards. A lack of sleep can impair your emotional regulation and thinking, which can intensify depression and other psychiatric diagnoses.

According to a study in the British journal Lancet Psychiatry, people with diagnosed mental health disorders showed improvement from an increased amount and quality of sleep.

Researchers aren’t sure exactly how this happens, but sleep disruption probably affects your stress hormones and neurotransmitter levels. Studies have shown that long-term insomnia can also cause depression later on, according to Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience.

People who are naturally night owls may be at a greater risk of depression than those who rise early, though clinicians do not yet understand why this may occur. A recent study on delayed sleep phase disorder (people who are extreme night owls) reported that a circadian misalignment might be linked to depression.

If you have trouble adapting to a work or school schedule, you should seek help from a sleep health professional.

Contact Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at ​1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.

How Does Depression Affect Sleep?

Depression can affect a number of bodily functions, like decreased appetite and libido loss, and make it more difficult to fall asleep. Sadness, hopelessness, and other feelings that come with depression may take over a person’s thoughts as he tries to fall asleep.

How does depression affect sleep? If someone is tired during the day, he or she may want to nap, which can then affect nighttime sleep. Even getting off a regular sleep schedule can affect a person’s body. While some people don’t sleep enough, depression and sleeping a lot is also common.

Talk to Your Doctor About Depression and Sleep Issues

If you’re experiencing depression, sleep disturbances, or both, it’s important to seek help.

It’s also important to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing depression and hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fewer than 20 percent of Americans who had moderate depressive symptoms had seen a mental health practitioner in the previous year. Medicines and therapy usually can help reduce depression and improve sleep.

It’s also possible there’s a more direct link between sleep and depression. People successfully treated for obstructive sleep apnea experienced lasting and reduced depression symptoms, according to the NSF. A sleep study can determine whether or not you have sleep apnea.

Before seeing a doctor about depression and sleep issues, it’s helpful to track your sleep for a few weeks so you can share examples of your sleep schedule, sleep quality, and how you felt emotionally during that time.

The doctors at UPMC can help you sleep better and tackle your depression. Whether you’re suffering from depression and sleeping a lot or not getting nearly enough rest, there’s no need to suffer alone.