The Depression and Insomnia Connection

The Depression and Insomnia Connection

Did you know that waking up too early in the morning can be a sign of depression? What’s more, poor sleep can additionally worsen symptoms of various mental health problems. That said, we can agree that sleep and mental health are closely connected.

Indeed, one study showed that insomnia is strongly linked with an increased risk of depression, mainly because:

  • Lack of sleep leads to cognitive and mood changes
  • Disturbed sleep negatively affects emotional regulation and stability
  • Sleep disturbance causes alterations in the neural processes
  • Sleep loss triggers a stress response and increases inflammatory marker levels

Another study found evidence suggesting that depression and insomnia have a bi-directional relationship. This means that suffering from one condition significantly increases the risk of developing the other. The same study showed that insomnia is a more consistent precursor of depression than depression of insomnia.

Furthermore, other research noted that around 90% of depression patients report having sleep issues such as insomnia, disordered breathing, narcolepsy, or restless legs syndrome (RLS). Doctors also report that they see a lot of adult patients suffering from both depression and insomnia.

Which to Treat First: Depression or Insomnia?

When suffering from two conditions, the main question is which to treat first. When it comes to depression and insomnia, you should first treat the condition that is your primary issue. For example, if depression is your major issue, taking antidepressants can improve your mood, and sleep will follow.

Similarly, if insomnia was the condition that started first, getting sleeping pills will help you improve your sleep quality and quantity, and your mood will get better in return. However, in the case of chronic insomnia, you should consider other treatment options as there’s no good evidence for long-term sleeping pills use.

Non-medication and Natural Treatment Options

There are plenty of non-medication and natural treatment options that can help you improve sleep and address depression. These might include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Mind-body practices

In addition, various natural supplements can also come in handy when it comes to improving both mood and sleep. But, ensure you consult your doctor before taking any supplements at all, especially if you are already following a medication regimen. Supplements that target both insomnia and depression include:

  • Valerian root
  • Magnesium
  • Passionflower
  • Lavender
  • Tryptophan

Moreover, for addressing insomnia, following good sleep hygiene is of utmost importance. This involves sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding screentime before bedtime, avoiding heavy meals and caffeinated drinks in the evening, creating a sleep-friendly environment, etc.

Medical Treatment Options

A recent review found that those with both insomnia and depression are more likely to experience severe depressive symptoms compared to those with depression alone.

In addition, some types of antidepressants, which are commonly prescribed for treating depression, can reduce sleep quality or even cause memory impairment or other issues. On the other hand, some antidepressants are sedating so when used in bed time can help with sleep too.

With this in mind, it is essential that you consult a professional before taking any medication, even over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids.

Medical Treatment for Insomnia

Prescription medications for treating insomnia might include:

  • Benzodiazepine receptor agonists
  • Non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists
  • Melatonin receptor agonists
  • Histamine receptor agonists
  • Orexin receptor agonists

Medical Treatment for Depression

Medications approved for treating depression might include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)
  • Atypical antidepressants
  • Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Last but not least, the following types of antidepressants are also used to treat insomnia, apart from depression, thanks to their sedating effects:

  • Tricyclics doxepin and amitriptyline
  • Trazodone, a serotonin modulator
  • Mirtazapine, an atypical antidepressant