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Depression Health Center

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Sleep and Depression

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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.

How Are Sleep Disorders and Depression Treated?

The treatment for clinical depression depends on how serious the mood disorder is. For instance, psychotherapy (talk therapy or counseling) combined with medications (antidepressants) is highly effective in treating depression. The antidepressants work to decrease symptoms of sadness or hopelessness while the psychotherapy helps improve coping skills and change negative attitudes and beliefs caused by depression. Talk therapy also works on coping skills to help you fall asleep more easily.

Which Medications Help Sleep Disorders and Depression?

Your doctor may treat sleep disorders and depression with an antidepressant such as an SSRI -- a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe a sedating antidepressant or a hypnotic medication -- a sleeping pill or other medication that helps people sleep.

Which Types of Antidepressants Can Help With Sleep?

Your doctor may prescribe one of the following antidepressants that can also help you sleep:

  • An SSRI such as Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Paxil. These medications can perform double duty for people by helping them sleep and elevating their mood. Some people taking these drugs, though, may still have trouble sleeping. Other antidepressant medicines that affect serotonin through multiple serotonin receptors include Viibryd and Brintellix.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (including Pamelor and Elavil)
  • SNRIs (serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as Effexor, Pristiq, Khedezla, Fetzima, or Cymbalta)
  • Sedating antidepressants (such as Remeron). The antidepressant trazodone is not widely used to treat depression but because it can cause drowsiness it is often paired as a sleep aid that can be used with other antidepressants.

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