What You Should Know About The Relationship Between Insomnia And Depression

Updated July 07, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

Insomnia is a condition that is serious on its own, but when it is paired with depression, insomnia can severely affect your life. Keep reading to learn more about the link between insomnia and depression, as well as a look at what treatment options are available.

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What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia happens when someone is unable to go to sleep, has problems staying asleep, or doesn’t get restful sleep. It is only considered to be a condition if this happens at least three times a week during a month.

If you have experienced these symptoms but haven’t experienced them at this frequency, this may be completely fine. Many things in your life can interrupt your sleeping, so short periods or days when you have insomnia are to be expected.

Is It Serious?

If you have insomnia that qualifies as a disorder, it can be a serious situation. When you are unable to sleep properly, this doesn’t allow your body the proper time to rest and renew, which can cause other problems with your health.

How Does It Relate To depression?

There is evidence to suggest that people who have insomnia have a higher risk of developing depression.

Depression is a condition that causes a person to experience certain symptoms such as sadness and a lack of motivation, to the point that these symptoms interfere with their routines and daily life. Insomnia is thought to be a symptom of depression, which is another way that they are linked.

Types Of Depression

There are a few different types of depression that you should know about.

Major Depression

This type of depression is diagnosed if someone has symptoms of depression that last two weeks or more. Common symptoms include sad feelings, feeling sleepy all the time, an inability to concentrate, weight gains or losses, feeling worthless, and having a general lack of interest in activities that used to bring joy.

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Persistent Depression

Persistent depression has similar symptoms as major depression, but they are experienced for a much longer period. These symptoms need to be experienced regularly for at least two years for someone to have this type of depression. However, persistent depression symptoms tend to be less severe than major depression symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder

If a person has this disorder, they will have intense periods of highs and lows, although there may not be an equal amount of each. The periods of high are known as mania, and the lows are considered depression.


There are multiple causes thought to contribute to insomnia.

  • Chronic pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, it may be hard for you to get comfortable and sleep at night. Moreover, this is true if you have some sort of health issue that causes you pain. There may be no positions that you can sleep in, which don’t cause you discomfort. If you are experiencing abuse, this may cause chronic pain as well.
  • History of substance abuse. If you have a history of substance abuse, it may translate into you being unable to sleep or stay asleep. If you are currently on some sort of substance, whether it be an illicit drug, prescription drug, or even alcohol, it can keep you from getting the sleep you need. Substance abuse and mental illness often appear together, which is something to be aware of.
  • Mental health issues. When you have a history of abuse and mental issues, you may also find yourself having problems with insomnia. This is a symptom of not only depression, but also other types of disorders, so this is something that may also bother you on occasion. Don’t let your anxiety or depression go untreated if that is something you suffer from.

Risk Factors For Insomnia

Certain risk factors may cause insomnia, as well. You should be aware of these, so you can limit them.

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  • Losing a job or changing shifts. When someone loses a job or changes shifts, their sleeping patterns can be affected, where their body becomes confused about when they should be asleep.
  • Frequent traveling. Traveling often through different time zones and to different places can affect your sleeping patterns. Your body will likely want to go to sleep at times that sync with where you live, which can be a problem if you are far from your home.
  • Extreme stress. Anyone that suffers from periods of extreme stress or has too much stress in their lives may stay up all night worrying or are unable to sleep. This is something you should limit when you can, although it is difficult to remove all the stress from your life.
  • Suffering from abuse. When a person is suffering from mental or physical abuse, it may be hard to sleep every night. Abuse and mental issues often share a link, especially if a problem was ignored or wasn’t handled properly. For example, if you have been abused and you never talked to a counselor about it, you may be more likely to develop a condition than if you would have reached out for help as it was going on. However, there are still benefits to talking to a licensed counselor, even years after the abuse occurred.
  • Bad dietary habits. People with insomnia sometimes have unhealthy diets. There may be a connection between bad nutrition and not being able to sleep at night, so it is important to eat as healthy as you can.


The symptoms of insomnia may be easier to notice than other types of illnesses.

  • Being unable to sleep
  • Not getting quality sleep
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Being tired all-day
  • Moodiness


When you seek out treatment for your insomnia, this can also lessen symptoms of depression, if you have it. This may also be able to lower your risk of getting depression as well, in some cases. There are three major types of treatment.

Things You Can Do At Home

There are a few things you can do at your house to help improve your well-being, and they can also help you if you are experiencing insomnia.

One is to relax regularly. When it is time to go to bed, be sure to keep your electronics away from you. Don’t watch television in your bedroom and be sure to wind down slowly. This can help you go to sleep gradually, without a bunch of devices distracting you or making noises that will wake you up at inopportune times.

Another is to take care of you. When you are under too much stress, take a step back from the situation. You can go take a hot bath or eat a piece of chocolate, and give yourself a break from the chaos. Sometimes you need to take a minute for yourself to reevaluate things, which can help change your perspective, hopefully for the better.

Finally, you should get yourself out of bad situations when possible. If you are being subjected to abuse and mental problems are plaguing you, get out of unhealthy circumstances. Seek all the help you need and find someone you can trust to talk to. If you don’t have someone that you know to confide in, you can always speak to a therapist or find a support group, in person, or online.


Different types of medicine can be used to help people with insomnia. You can speak with your doctor if this is an option you want to explore, and they can help you develop an effective treatment plan.

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Since insomnia can lead to depression and is also a possible symptom of depression, it is easy to understand why you should seek therapy to help rid yourself of this inconvenience. It may be that you need to talk to someone about things that you are happening, or you require advice on how to stop certain behaviors.

If you don’t feel comfortable with traditional, in-person therapy, you may want to consider online counseling alternatives. For example, BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that allows you to speak with licensed counselors from the comfort of your own home. There is evidence that online therapy improves sleeping patterns; for example, a study conducted in 2016 found that online cognitive behavioral therapy improved sleep in adults with insomnia.


No matter what is causing you to have insomnia, there is hope for you. If a health problem causes it, you can get treatment and may benefit from a certain medicine. It is important to get help as soon as you can, to prevent major depression or some other type of depression from occurring, since that is in the realm of possibility. If you have anxiety depression symptoms, you may want to talk to someone about what is going on. Don’t let past abuse and mental issues stop you from seeking treatment when treatment can provide benefits.

Take the time to institute healthy habits when it comes to stress relief and sleeping, so you can have a better chance of freeing yourself from insomnia. Since we know there is a link between insomnia and depression, it is recommended to seek help when you can. It is entirely possible to free yourself from chronic insomnia; it just takes a few changes.

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