What Is Depression Insomnia?

Updated August 28, 2020

If you have read anything about depression, you are probably aware that a common symptom is an insomnia. You may know that insomnia is a condition that makes you unable to sleep, but there are more components to consider. This is especially true for depression insomnia, which has various aspects to it. If you have depression and find yourself unable to sleep, learning about depression insomnia might help you to find the best treatment option for you.

Is Depression Insomnia Different from Regular Insomnia?

What is it that makes depression insomnia different from the standard case of insomnia? Understanding the differences requires knowing exactly what regular insomnia and each of its intricacies. Comparing those points to the facts surrounding depression, insomnia is key to knowing the difference and how to approach treatment.

What is Insomnia?

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Many people use the term insomnia loosely or casually. If they fail to sleep well for a night or two, they might mention to a coworker the next day that they are experiencing daytime sleepiness because of their insomnia. While it is not necessary to have a doctor diagnose insomnia, a condition requires more than just one or two nights of little sleep. Acute insomnia is a short version of the condition, but typically means several nights or weeks of poor sleep. Chronic insomnia, however, is when you experience a month or more of sleepless nights.

Insomnia is not only considered nights of no sleep. It also involves the nights in which it takes a long time to fall asleep, the mornings you wake up far too early, and the nights you find it difficult to remain asleep throughout the night. You might experience daytime sleepiness, irritability, inability to focus, and clumsiness.

Regular insomnia can be the result of a variety of causes. Stress, trauma, shift work, or varying working hours and poor sleeping habits tend to lead to insomnia. A number of disorders and diseases can also cause it. Pinpointing the cause of your insomnia is crucial to knowing how it should be treated.

What is Depression Insomnia?

Depression insomnia is different from a standard case of insomnia because of the cause. Depression is known to cause insomnia in many patients. Although the two conditions feed on one another, meaning depression can cause insomnia and insomnia can cause depression, identifying your insomnia as a symptom of depression also means that treatment options are clearer.

Insomnia can be caused by several factors that also play a role in depression. For example, a risk factor of both depression and insomnia is female. Because of hormonal shifts in pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, and menopause, women are more prone to depression (i.e., postpartum depression) and sleepless nights. Other common risk factors that the two conditions share include other existing mental health illnesses and stress. Additionally, an irregular schedule, like one caused by depression or a varying work schedule, can add to the chance you will experience insomnia.

Knowing these factors involved in depression insomnia, you may wonder how depression insomnia is treated. Should you aim to treat depression or insomnia? It starts with identifying which condition came first, but it is important to treat both. Although getting more sleep will likely improve your depression, it may not completely heal the illness. The same can be true for the opposite.

Are the Treatment Options Different?

Depression treatment is commonly done with therapy, medication, or other natural forms. Insomnia, on the other hand, can also be treated with therapy, medication, or natural remedies. Although the treatments are similar, there are slight differences in how the treatments are used. Therapy, for example, is a common treatment option for depression. For depression, therapy addresses how you think, behave, and how to handle feelings productively.

Insomnia therapy, known as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, addresses the root issue as to why you are not sleeping well. A therapist will likely have patients keep a sleep journal so that the main concern can be identified and better sleep habits can be taught. If both depression and insomnia are present, a counselor or therapist will work with the patient on both issues.

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Medication is also common for both insomnia and depression. For depression, Tricyclic antidepressants may be prescribed, but doctors tend to lean toward newer antidepressants with fewer side effects. Insomnia is often prescribed sleeping pills but can also be helped with a supplement of over the counter melatonin. Although medications are common treatment options for insomnia and depression, many health professionals recommend therapy is attempted before any prescriptions are given.

Natural methods can be helpful for depression insomnia, as both depression and insomnia can be healed using some of the same approaches. For instance, exposure to natural sunlight helps to adjust your body’s internal clock and can improve moods. Exercise at the right time of day can help you to feel tired at the appropriate time and release chemicals that improve how you feel. By using methods that improve depression and insomnia, you may find that your depression insomnia begins to improve as well.

Healing from Depression Insomnia

Depression insomnia is not something that has to last forever. With the appropriate treatment and effort on your part, you can find that your sleep improves, and your depression gets better over time. However, it is something that you can relapse on. After learning how to sleep better, you must maintain your regular sleep schedule and habits. The habits you will likely be taught by a counselor or other professional can help you to stay on track.

Bedtime Routine

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Remember to maintain a normal bedtime routine. This includes going to bed at the same time each night, even on the weekends. It also means getting into a regular routine before you sleep so that your body and mind know what is coming. For example, if you find it easiest to fall asleep after half an hour of light reading, brushing your teeth, and washing your face, stick to that routine. If a bath helps you to relax an hour before bed, keep doing it. Whatever it is that you find to help, make it part of your regular night.

Lighting and Late-Night Activities

Bright lights and energizing activities can keep you awake later than planned. By dimming your lights at least an hour before you plan to sleep, you may find that it is easier to fall asleep. This is also true for the bright light on your phone or tablet. The blue light emanating from modern screens can trick your mind into thinking it is not the time for sleep. Avoiding these kinds of lights an hour before bedtime can help your mind to realize it is bedtime. It is also a good idea to avoid any exercise within a few hours before you sleep, as it can amp up the mind and prepare it for more activity.

Beverages before Bed

Water, juice, and milk are common before bed beverages, but they can interrupt your sleep when you have to get up in the middle of the night to relieve your bladder. It is best to avoid drinking something too close to bedtime. Alcohol is another beverage that should be avoided if you are struggling to fall asleep. Although it can make you feel sleepy, alcohol does not allow for a restful sleep. An individual that has been drinking alcohol will likely wake throughout the night or earlier than necessary.

Morning or Early Afternoon Exercise

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Time your workouts, right! Most individuals thrive on a morning workout. However, if the morning is not a good time for you, try to keep your exercise far from sleep time. Giving yourself a good three to four hours between exercise and sleep can help your mind to calm down after the endorphin release from your workout.

Reach Out to Your Counselor Before Depression Insomnia Returns

If you begin to fall out of your bedtime habits, or if your depression has started causing insomnia once again, contact your counselor before it gets too bad. For most people, this would be after a couple of sleepless nights. By letting your counselor know that you are having a hard time early on, working on resolving the matter becomes easier. If you were to wait until your depression insomnia got worse, a lot more work might be necessary to get back on track.

The First Step

Identifying your need for help is a big first step to take, but it is the step necessary to get back to a restful night’s sleep. Depression and insomnia can be difficult to deal with, but with modern-day treatments in coordination with natural remedies, individuals may find that sleep can be achieved again. Think about trying some tips for getting better sleep, but also consider reaching out to a medical or mental health professional.

Therapy and/ or counseling can go a long way in making you feel more like yourself again. Depression symptoms, like insomnia, do not have to take over your life – nor does depression. Seek help and improve your help sooner rather than later.


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