If you struggle with sleep problems as well as depression, you are not alone in this difficult experience. Many people have the dual conditions of sleep deprivation and depression. Why do these two conditions tend to appear at the same time? How do you break the cycle of sleep deprivation and depression when these two conditions reinforce each other? Understanding this may help you better cope with both symptoms and avoid creating a vicious cycle.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Most healthy adults need around eight hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep can cause daytime drowsiness. Over a long time, one might develop a sleep disorder such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently, or insomnia. Sleep disorders have become all-too-common among the general adult population in the United States.
Overwork and remote work has accelerated the downward trend of sleep time. When a person continuously gets little sleep, their cognitive function can deteriorate. They may experience memory impairment and emotional health problems. Sleep loss not only contributes to work-related accidents but also the development of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Although having a sleep disorder does not in itself lead to depression, chronic sleep deprivation can certainly worsen emotional and mental health. Insomnia for a significant period may contribute to the onset of major depression symptoms.
The Connection Between Sleep and Mood
Sleep is a restorative state for the brain. A time for neurons to communicate with each other, sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in the brain. Several brain structures are involved with sleep, including the hypothalamus, the brain stem, the pineal gland, and the basal forebrain. Different stages of sleep (REM and non-REM) are linked to various brain waves and neural activity.
Because brain structure, sleep stages, and neural activity interact so complexly, sleep can affect all systems in the body, including the immune system, metabolism, and emotional regulation. Sleep and mood are closely linked, and they form a two-way cycle. Lack of good sleep can make you irritable and vulnerable to stress, and stress tends to cause a lack of good sleep. Even partial sleep deprivation may affect the mood negatively. As one leads to the other, lack of sleep and negative emotions can form a vicious, mutually reinforcing cycle.
The Vicious Cycle of Sleep Disorders and Depression
Chronic sleep problems may develop into a sleep disorder, which is highly associated with depression. For example, people with narcolepsy often have depression. People who take anti-depressants may also experience sleep disorders. Both show up in the body and mood in lack of energy, lack of motivation, and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
People who suffer the dual conditions of sleep disorders and depression should get treated for both sets of symptoms. There are medications (such as SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that help people recover from sleep problems as well as depressive moods. Even if one uses medication, it is still crucial to change their lifestyle to incorporate sleep-enhancing habits. Restoration of sleep and mood requires a systematic overhaul.
Practical Advice to Help with Sleep Disorders and Depression
Like any other systematic condition, sleep disorders and depression require a holistic approach, which requires lifestyle changes that address the root causes. A healthy lifestyle begins with a balanced diet and regular exercise. To ease pre-sleep anxiety, refrain from watching the news or using screens at least one hour before bedtime. Over-exposure to blue light from digital screens can suppress the release of melatonin, a natural hormone that signals to the brain that it’s time to unwind and sleep.
Evening times are best used for relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, reading a book, or listening to soft music. Refrain from having caffeine or refined sugars late in the day. Create a bedtime ritual, like taking a warm bath and drawing blackout shades from light and noise, or making a cup of non-caffeinated tea and reading a book. White noise apps can also help one fall asleep.
Some people have a difficult time sleeping due to graveyard shifts or late-night work. In these cases, cut out late-night work whenever possible, or sleep schedules can be adjusted to accommodate one’s normal work hours.
All in all, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to depression because of the neurochemical changes that occur in the brain. Be aware of this bi-directional cycle between sleep disorder and depression. The cycle can become vicious but it is also treatable by using a combination of medications, holistic lifestyle changes, and a sleep study when necessary.
Are you struggling with sleep problems while trying to recover from substance addiction? You might know that good sleep can be conducive to long-term recovery, and the lack of it may endanger your progress. Many recovering individuals struggle to get good sleep back. When this happens, one’s mood and mental health can be affected. If you encounter setbacks due to sleep deprivation and depression together, it may be time to work with recovery professionals who know how to help improve your life. At Laguna Shores Recovery, or experienced mental healthcare professionals and therapists know how to coach people through regaining good sleep, managing depression, and maintaining recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with both sleep problems and substance use, our medical and residential facility is the place to be. We offer treatments including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Call us at (866) 906-3203 so we can help you heal.
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