Understanding the Bi-directional Relationship Between Depression and Insomnia

May 31, 2023
Understanding the Bi-directional Relationship Between Depression and Insomnia
There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. When you don’t get sufficient sleep, your brain can’t function as it should, which may trigger depression. But if you’re depressed, you could have even more trouble sleeping.

Your brain needs sufficient sleep to restore itself and produce the chemicals it needs to function well and efficiently … and to sleep efficiently, too. 

When you’re deprived of sleep, your brain can’t produce melatonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), two hormones that help you sleep. Lack of sleep also decreases the production of serotonin, which elevates your mood.

The link between sleep problems, such as insomnia or hypersomnia, and depression is well known. In fact, insomnia and depression feed into each other, bi-directionally, making it difficult to resolve one without addressing the other. 

Our mental health experts, Joseph Kwentus, MD, and Karen Richardson, PhD, recommend sleep evaluation and sleep treatment in most cases of major depressive disorder. 

At Precise Research Centers in Flowood, Mississippi, we help your brain get the rest and chemicals it needs to keep you functional, stable, and happy.

The link between depression and insomnia

About 80% of women, men, and children who have a major depressive disorder experience insomnia. Interestingly, about 40% of those with clinically diagnosed insomnia also have depression.

Both sleep and mood are controlled by chemicals and hormones in the brain. Once the chemical balance is altered by lack of sleep or depressed mood, the more likely you are to experience depression, insomnia, or both.

In fact, it’s hard for clinicians to distinguish which came first: the depression or the insomnia. What they know for sure is that the two conditions tend to go hand in hand. In fact, some doctors don’t diagnose depression unless you also have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

The good news is that when you get treatment for one issue, the other tends to improve, too. In addition to taking antidepressants and undergoing talk therapy for your depression, you could benefit from a sleep-enhancing program, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that is directed specifically at improving sleep. 

Lack of sleep lowers quality of life

When you’re depressed, you may experience symptoms such as lack of focus, lack of drive, and a reduced sensation of joy in activities you once loved. When you don’t sleep well, you might notice those same feelings and reactions. 

If you’re depressed and also don’t sleep well, the double burden of symptoms may make it hard to get through your daily life.

In an unfortunate Catch-22, some antidepressants have the side effect of disrupting sleep. So, while they may help your mood, you don’t experience their full benefits due to lack of sleep. 

That’s why it’s important to let us know how you react to any medication you receive. You may need a dosage adjustment so you can both feel better and sleep better. You could also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) to ease your mind before sleep.

The right antidepressant for you and your sleep may take a while to find. We work with you until you’re both feeling better and sleeping better. You might also benefit from our clinical trials for new antidepressants.

Focus on sleep hygiene

In addition to medications and CBT-I, don’t overlook the need for quality sleep. When you take sleep seriously and focus on giving yourself the best rest possible at night, your depression should start to ease. 

We help you adopt new sleep habits that improve the quality of your rest, including:

  • Setting a daily bedtime and wake time
  • Sleeping in a dark, cool room
  • Avoiding alcohol at night
  • Cutting out caffeine after the morning
  • Getting more exercise
  • Exposing yourself to sunlight and outdoor air
  • Avoiding long naps

Through CBT-I, you also learn ways to soothe anxious thoughts before bed so you fall asleep more easily, and stay asleep longer.

Whether you’re depressed, sleepy, or both, enhance your mood and increase your quality of life by looking at and treating insomnia and depression bi-directionally. Call us at 601-685-3457 or book an appointment online for depression treatment today. You can also send a message to our team on the website. 

If you’d like to be considered for a clinical trial, please let us know.