Americans seem to have a tug-of-war relationship with sleep. It seems that a new sleep-related benefit is discovered each month — followed by a slew of clickbait articles. The next phase of the cycle is the multiple pledges from people wishing to settle into regular sleep patterns.
Much like New Year’s resolution clichés, those pledges fade until the next sleep-related benefit is reported. This is not a clickbait post. It’s not about a new development. The relationship between sleep and depression is well-researched and well-documented. Taking that relationship seriously is an essential step.
What Is Meant By “Depression”?
It may sound obvious, but it’s worth repeating: there is a huge difference between feeling depressed and having depression. Everyone endures blue periods. It’s normal, inevitable, and can help you better appreciate when life feels rosy. Depression is a mental health condition. It comes in several varieties, but some universal signs include overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness for an extended period of time.
Looming just below those more obvious symptoms, you may experience:
- Mood swings
- Losing interest in activities you used to think were fun
- Loss of appetite, weight loss/gain
- Rumination, guilt, shame, and apathy
- Having depressing thoughts and intense feelings of worthlessness
- Sleep disruptions, ranging from insomnia to always feeling sleepy
The last item on the above list is a good entry point for this discussion.
Understanding the Relationship Between Sleep and Depression
Your sleep habits can increase your likelihood of depression. Insomnia and other sleep issues increase the risk of developing depression. Your depression can negatively impact your sleep patterns—seventy-five percent of people with depression report sleep disturbances. But which comes first? It may not always be possible to figure that out. What’s certain, however, is the existence of a clear link between sleep and depression.
- A lack of healthy sleep patterns decreases your skills of emotional regulation. Over time, being at the mercy of your emotions leaves you more vulnerable to mental health issues, especially depression.
- Sleep difficulties shorten the amount of necessary slow-wave sleep you get. In addition, they reduce the brain’s ability to produce and manage a neurotransmitter called serotonin. These deficiencies build over time and weaken your ability to fend off negative psychological trends.
- If you’ve already been diagnosed with depression, this can alter how you deal with day-to-day stressors. Your growing ability to juggle daily problems has the side effect of, you guessed it, insomnia.
You may never identify the cause vs. effect, but it doesn’t always matter. What’s crystal clear is that lack of sleep sets you up for many negative outcomes. In the case of depression, the condition itself will also exacerbate your sleep problems. Translation: If you believe you may be experiencing depression, talk to a mental health therapist as early as possible. In the meantime, reporting your unhealthy sleep habits is essential under any circumstances.
Creating Healthy Sleep Habits
Here are some tips for getting better sleep:
- Routine: Set a time that you’ll hit the sack and a time to wake up each day. It may take a while but stick to the routine.
- Eating: Don’t eat or drink too close to bedtime — especially alcohol, caffeine, and large meals.
- Environment: Set up your bedroom to be sleep-friendly. Minimize light and noise. Monitor temperature.
- Activity: Do some kind of exercise every day (but also not too close to your bedtime).
Depression Therapy Columbus Ohio
If you’re experiencing sleep issues and/or possible depression symptoms, do not take them lightly. The earlier you get help, the quicker you can find healing because depression can get better. Working with a skilled therapist is a proven path for dealing with such concerns. Contact us to talk about getting you the help you need and deserve.