Depression is a debilitating illness no matter what way you look at it, but from a perspective of sleep, it also has a number of detrimental effects. In fact, sleeping issues may actually stem from an undiagnosed bout of depression, so closely linked can the symptoms be.
In fact, one can often very be the root cause of the other, so solutions are often interlinked too.
Poor sleeping habits over a period of time can often be a precursor to the onset of depression, while depression itself will nearly always impact upon the quality of sleep that a sufferer is experiencing.
Medications prescribed for depression can also add a layer of complexity to the issue, and in some ways it can be a cycle of poor sleep and feelings of hopelessness at the situation which propagates the issues at hand.
Fortunately, understanding the interwovenness of poor sleep and feelings of sadness can assist in breaking the cycle. Depression and insomnia are complex illnesses and it is important to know that there is no one magic bullet for either of these issues, nor is the solution often fact-acting, but rather they are issues which can be managed over time with gradual changes in lifestyle habits, and the appreciation of how things are interlinked.
How can sleeplessness contribute to our cause depression?
We have all had a bad night’s sleep in the course of our lives, often many. The first thing that everyone recognizes is that with a severely-affected night’s sleep, simple tasks become that little more difficult to achieve.
Our inability to complete simple tasks can then create frustration, which leads to stress. The link between stress and depression is well-known.
Similarly, sleepless nights affect our mood. Often, we can become irritable if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep, and over an extended period of time, this can harm close relationships, or performance at work. Once again, this can lead to stress, or feelings of helplessness at your inability to break the cycle.
Then there are links between the lack of sleep experienced by new parents, and the onset of post-partum depression, although it is extremely important to add that this is a complex issue that involves a number of differing factors.
Yet what is clear is that it all adds up to a ticking time bomb of emotional turmoil and harmful behavior which can foster the feelings of those who suffer from depression.
How can depression cause sleeplessness?
From the opposite side, depression which has arisen from any number of scenarios (the loss of a loved one, severe stress, or a chemical imbalance) will lead to feelings and behaviors that are seriously detrimental to getting a good night’s rest. Depression often causes listlessness and a loss of appetite which in turn leads to a lack of energy.
If the body is unable to expend energy in a regular manner, this can create a feeling of lethargy which is not conducive to sleep. And then of course there are the feelings of sadness and hopelessness that send the mind into overdrive, when to get to sleep you need a mind that is free from harmful and over-active thoughts.
Once again it becomes a vicious cycle that can become incredibly difficult to break.
What are the solutions?
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to these issues. Yet there are a number of habits and lifestyle changes which can facilitate a better environment for those who are suffering from one, the other, or both of these problems.
Medical intervention is recommended in some instances, and counselling services are highly beneficial too”, suggests Sally Foster, a psychologist at Australia2Write.
Exercise has so many benefits to the health of both body and mind that if it could be bottled up and sold, it would be priceless. The fact is, there is no substitute for the advantages felt by a physical workout, be that in the form of a gym session, trip to the swimming pool, or some vigorous outdoor exercise in the form of jogging, cycling or hiking.
Exercise releases endorphins in the brain which make us feel good, but even more importantly, we tire ourselves out, both mentally and physically. The result is a situation which is much more conducive to a good night’s rest.
In our daily lives, our bodies are often not exerted as rigorously as our minds, with the plethora of decisions that we have to make in the course of our jobs and home lives. Added to that is the increase in unhealthy habits such as driving everywhere, and watching too much television, which only exacerbate the problem.
Getting out and getting active, especially in the fresh air, is extremely beneficial to our health in general, with the added bonus of natural light, and although it may not be the ultimate answer, can facilitate a healthier lifestyle and all the benefits that brings.
Healthy eating habits
Fortunately, we are all becoming more aware of the benefits, and of course harmful effects, of the things we eat, and adapting diet is one of the biggest focuses when fighting both depression and insomnia.
High-carb and sugar diets in a situation where not a lot of exercise is taken is usually detrimental, while fresh fruit and vegetables give us the vitamins and minerals the body thrives on. Cutting out harmful substances such as alcohol and caffeine is also highly recommended.
But it is not just about what we eat, it is when.
“Having a large meal just before bedtime is usually detrimental to a good night’s sleep too, as is eating large quantities in one sitting at any time, so adapt to a routine that facilitates better consequences,” recommends Trent Felix, a blogger at BritStudent.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a popular treatment for patients suffering from depression because of the lack of side effects. It basically focuses on restructuring cognitive thoughts to avoid rabbit holes of thinking, i.e. spiraling down into a sad place through a typical chain of thoughts.
It focuses on techniques to change the way we think so as to regulate our emotions, and is growing in popularity around the globe as an approach to tackling depression, especially as an alternative to medication.
For those who suffer, often the initial stage is coping. Using a combination of the solutions is usually the best approach, meaning eating more healthily, getting regular exercise, getting more natural light and avoiding afternoon naps. Ultimately get the help you need, and lean on loved ones as much as necessary. Things will get better.
Impaired sleep can seriously affect your quality of life and productivity. Behavioral changes implemented under the guidance of an experienced clinician can improve sleep quality and help you feel more alert and functional on a regular basis. Sleep is a third of your life – make it count!
Alaska Sleep Clinic is the most comprehensive multi-site sleep lab in Alaska with clinics in Anchorage, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna and we continue to expand our services to those with sleep disorders.
Angie Randazzo, PhD, is a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with expertise in sleep disorders. No other CBT sleep specialist provides care in the state of Alaska. She is available to Alaska Sleep Clinic’s patients via telemedicine, through SleepTM.
Contact Alaska Sleep Clinic today for your free sleep assessment.