If you've been diagnosed with clinical depression, you may be having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. There's a reason for that. There is a definite link between lack of sleep and depression. In fact, one of the common signs of depression is insomnia or an inability to fall and stay asleep.
That's not to say insomnia or other sleep problems are caused only by depression. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the U.S., affecting nearly one out of every three adults at some point in life. More women suffer from insomnia than men, and as people get older, insomnia becomes more prevalent.
Most experts agree that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But even without depression, according to the National Sleep Foundation, the average American only gets about 6.9 hours. When you add depression to the mix, the problems with sleep are compounded.
What's the Link Between Sleep Disorders and Depression?
An inability to sleep is one of the key signs of clinical depression. Another sign of clinical depression is sleeping too much or oversleeping.
Having a sleep disorder does not in itself cause depression, but lack of sleep does play a role. Lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse. An inability to sleep that lasts over a long period of time is also an important clue that someone may be depressed.
What Is Clinical Depression?
Clinical depression is a mood disorder. It causes you to feel sad, hopeless, worthless, and helpless. Sure, we all feel sad or blue from time to time. But when you feel sad for long periods and the feelings become intense, the depressed mood and its associated physical symptoms can keep you from living a normal life.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Normal sleep is a restorative state. However, when sleep is disrupted or inadequate, it can lead to increased tension, vigilance, and irritability.
Physical or emotional trauma and metabolic or other medical problems can trigger sleep disturbances. Poor sleep can lead to fatigue. With fatigue, you exercise less and that leads to a decline in your fitness level. Eventually, you find yourself in a vicious cycle of inactivity and disturbed sleep, which causes both physical and mood-related symptoms.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is difficulty initiating or maintaining normal sleep. It can result in nonrestorative sleep and interfere with or impair the way you function during the day. Insomnia is often a characteristic of depression and other mental health disorders. With insomnia, you may sleep too little, have difficulty falling asleep, awaken frequently throughout the night, or be unable to get back to sleep.
With untreated depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt. These feelings can interrupt sleep. Or your mind may be in overdrive, ruminating about situations over which you have no control. With that rumination come high levels of anxiety, fears about poor sleep, low daytime activity levels, and a tendency to misperceive sleep.