Depression and Insomnia: How Sleeping Patterns Impact Mental Health

Insomnia is very common among people with depression and affects about 10 to 15 percent of the United States population. Multiple studies in clinical research have shown that a lack of sleep can result in a reduced quality of life, causing an imbalance that can lead to depression. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that people with insomnia have an increased risk of developing depression, while depression is also known to cause insomnia. Despite the high level of correlation between the two experiences, specialists often face a struggle determining which condition came first when evaluating people with insomnia and depression. Is it depression that leads to sleeping problems, or can it be the other way around?

Generally, people with depression have the tendency to experience a disruption in sleep patterns and struggle to cope with both disorders. As depression can be stressful and exhausting, adding on a restless night of little to no sleep can result in a feeling of hopeless. Sleep is acknowledged to be essential to our mental and physical health and its absence can cause depression to take over your life.

Indeed, it is hard to find a solution for an equation with two unknowns, but working on one variable at a time can lead somewhere. Thus, the first step that needs to be taken in any attempt to overcome these situations is to improve sleep through medical treatment.

The American Association of Sleep Technologies states that the most common affects on sleep among those suffering from depression are:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Difficulty staying asleep

  • Waking up early in the morning

  • Oversleeping

  • Sleeping during the day

  • Poor quality of sleep

  • Waking up feeling tired

These effects are not mutually exclusive.

The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute explains that in the United States, sleep deficiency is often linked to many chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression. The reasoning is that sleep helps our brains function properly throughout our daily routine.

As such, any individual must work towards getting enough sleep both in terms of time and quality to be prepared to face what the next day has to offer. This is especially true for people dealing with depression symptoms; planning to improve sleeping habits leads to better mental and physical rest, which leads to a more positive state of mind, and ultimately result in less depressive thoughts and behaviors.

There are a few effective ways that can be used improve sleep habits. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School provided the following techniques:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep

  • Turn your bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment

  • Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine

  • Go to sleep when you’re truly tired

  • Don’t be a nighttime clock-watcher

  • Use light to your advantage

  • Keep your internal clock set with a consistent sleep schedule

  • Nap early—or not at all

  • Lighten up on evening meals

  • Balance fluid intake: drink enough not to wake up thirsty in the middle of the night

  • Exercise early (finish working out at least 3 hours before bedtime)

If following these techniques still does not improve your insomnia, speak to your doctor about prescription or herbal medications which aid sleep.

If medical treatment does not help treat insomnia and depression, patients can turn to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a safe, non- invasive, drug free, and FDA-approved procedure that can help relieve people from depression which might be the source of insomnia.

TMS Neuro Institute offers TMS treatment in Los Angeles. To schedule a consultation, call 323.655.3747 or take our Free TMS Therapy Self-Assessment online here.