Sleep problems are often linked to depression. When a person suffers from depression, she feels an overwhelming sense of sadness and hopelessness that interferes with daily life. Common symptoms of depression include:
- Appetite or weight changes
- Concentration problems
- Feelings of helplessness
- Headaches, nausea or other inexplicable body pain
- Loss of energy
- Loss of interest in daily activities
In addition, sleep problems are a very common symptom of depression. Some people with depression sleep too much. But for most depressed people, the biggest issue with sleep and depression is insomnia – difficulty falling, or staying, asleep.
Symptoms of Depression: Sleep Deprivation
Depression sleep deprivation typically falls into three categories:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking early in the morning
- Waking up frequently during the night.
In addition, people with depression often report feeling tired during the day, even if they got an appropriate amount of sleep the night before.
Depression and sleep problems can create a vicious cycle. When depressed people can’t sleep, they tend to ruminate on their problems. In many cases, this adds to the depressed feelings and continues to keep sleep at bay.
Treating Depression Sleep Problems
Those hoping to treat their depression-related sleep problems with medication have two basic options: prescription sleeping pills or antidepressants. Many doctors feel more comfortable prescribing antidepressants because, unlike sleeping pills, they’re not habit-forming. In addition, antidepressants do double duty by treating the root cause of sleep problems – depression – rather than just the insomnia by itself.
Many studies have linked both depression and sleep problems to low levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood) in the brain. For this reason, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These drugs keep nerve cells from reabsorbing too much serotonin, effectively treating both insomnia and the underlying depression. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include:
- Citalopram (CelexaÂ¨)
- Escitalopram (LexaproÂ©)
- Fluoxetine (ProzacÂ©)
- Paroxetine (PaxilÂ¨)
- Sertraline (ZoloftÂ©).
Some antidepressants, such as trazodone, have a sedative effect, and are sometimes used to treat the combination of insomnia and depression.
Lifestyle changes can also help combat insomnia, with or without the help of medication. Regulating your sleep schedule is a good first step. Get up at the same time every day, even if you’re still tired, and go to bed at the same time every night. Dim lights for several hours in the evenings to let your body know that it’s close to bedtime.
Don’t subject your body to any extra stress in the evenings. For example, avoid eating a large meal or exercising during the two hours leading up to bedtime. Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol after 6:00 p.m.
Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing place for sleep only. DonÃ•t keep a radio or TV in your bedroom. Decorate the room with cool, calm colors and consider using aromatic oils, such as lavender, on your pillow to help you relax.
Breus, M.J. (2004). Sleep disorders: Sleep and depression. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=47548.
McAllister-Williams, H. (2005). Sleep and depression. Retrieved May 26, 2010, from www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/depression/sleepanddepression_000493.htm.