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Sleep and depression

Sleep problems and depression can be linked.

Depression and other mental health problems can contribute to insomnia or disturbed sleep.

Another sign of depression is sleeping too much or oversleeping.

Having sleep problems doesn’t mean a person will get depression – and depression doesn’t always lead to sleep problems. However, having one does increase the chances of experiencing the other.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is important for good health, helping us recharge our physical and emotional batteries ready for the next day.

If sleep is disrupted or you don’t get enough of it, it can affect the next day's mood and cause fatigue.

How depression affects sleep

The mental health charity Mind says that people with depression may choose to sleep in rather than face the day ahead – called oversleeping.

While too little sleep is bad, too much sleep and oversleeping can cause fatigue and make a person lethargic.

That extra sleep during the day can also make it harder to get restful sleep at night.

Thinking about things linked to the depression can also work against you falling off to sleep well at night, staying asleep, getting back to sleep if you are disturbed, or waking up at the planned time in the morning.

How sleep problems affect depression

Being tired during the day makes it harder to cope with the daily challenges that depression brings. This could lead to worsening of depression symptoms.

Being too tired to maintain social activities can lead to isolation, which in turn can affect depression.

A lack of sleep can lower the mood, and negative thoughts can be more likely to have an effect when tired.

What can help with sleep problems with depression

If you have depression and are having sleep problems, seek medical advice. A doctor may prescribe short-term medication or recommend therapy to help, but may also suggest trying self-help sleep tips.

These may include:

  • Sticking to a routine with similar bedtimes and getting up times each day.
  • Making the bedroom comfortable to encourage good sleep, avoiding too much light, noise, gadgets and being too hot or cold. Keeping the bedroom for sleep, not TV, computer or gadget use.
  • Winding down before bed, avoiding things that stimulate the brain, such as video games, technology screens or catching up with work.
  • Considering relaxation techniques before bedtime – like breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Exercise is good for physical and mental health, but avoid it too close to bedtime.
  • Staying off coffee and other caffeine drinks, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime. Too many liquids close to bedtime make night-time trips to the toilet more likely, and heavy meals late at night can cause disturbed sleep.
  • Taking notes about good and bad times for sleeping and what might have caused these sleep difficulties can help pinpoint problem areas – called a sleep diary.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 19, 2016

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