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By: Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT on August 19th, 2015

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Lack of Sleep and Depression: Causes and Treatment Options

Sleep Medicine | Sleep Technologist Advice


Did you know that changes in your sleep habits are one of the most common effects of depression?

Lack of sleep can be a symptom of depression, an effect of depression and a contributing factor to worsened depression.

Depression and sleep are closely related, which makes sense since depression affects many types of brain functions including the sleep-wake cycle of our body. Once our biological clock has been disturbed, our sleep patterns can be even more irregular and eventually this can become a vicious cycle for many people.

What are the effects of depression on sleep?

When sleep clinics encounter patients with insomnia and depression, it's often very difficult for them to identify which came first- the insomnia or the depression. People with depression commonly experience disturbed sleep patterns, but the way depression affects sleep varies widely.

Here is a list of some of the most common effects of depression on sleep:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up early in the morning
  • Oversleeping
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Waking up feeling tired

What are the effects of lack of sleep and depression?

Not getting enough restful sleep can affect your emotional health. In other words, a chronic lack of sleep can cause depression. Although it is unlikely that lack of sleep alone can be the sole cause of depression, it combined with other factors can trigger depression in some people.  Links between depression and lack of sleep have been commonly found in studies.

Some of the well-established effects of lack of sleep on depression are: 

  • That people with insomnia have a significantly higher risk of developing depression.
  • Other sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are associated with a higher probability that an individual will suffer from depression. It has also been shown that the treatment of sleep apnea also improves the depression as well.
  • Children with depression who experience irregular sleep patterns are more likely to have longer and more severe episodes of depression.

But the good news is that when it comes to treating patients who exhibit symptoms of depression and a chronic lack of sleep, treating one condition can help better treat the other.

How treating lack of sleep can improve depression 

The first step to help patients who are not sleeping well is to identify whether there are comorbidities (a topic we will be addressing in-depth at the 2015 Fall Course in Branson). This means finding out whether the patient is suffering from other conditions like depression, which may be an underlying factor related to their lack of sleep.

Studies have found that if you treat a patient for insomnia, who also has depression, there is a good chance that you will also improve their chances of feeling better from improvements in their level of depression.

How treating depression can affect lack of sleep in patients

Treating insomnia can also help patients exhibit reduced symptoms of depression. But researchers warn that it is important to address the depression that exists independently of the sleep issues, to ensure that the patient will have less trouble getting restful sleep.

Researchers say it's a chicken or the egg question when it comes to figuring out what came first- the insomnia or the depression.

Before and after you consult a sleep specialist on the relationship between lack of sleep and depression

Make sure you're following our tips on getting a better night's sleep.

If you're a sleep technologist and want to become a leading expert on the topic of how to take comorbidities into consideration when treating patients for sleep disorders, attend our 2015 Fall Course. For more information and to register for the course click the image below:

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About Kevin Asp, CRT, RPSGT

Because of the implementation of his best practices of Implementing Inbound Marketing in its Medical Practice, he turned the once stagnant online presence of Alaska Sleep Clinic to that of "The Most Trafficked Sleep Center Website in the World" in just 18 months time. He is the President and CEO of inboundMed and enjoys helping sleep centers across the globe grow their business through his unique vision and experience of over 27 years in sleep medicine.

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