The link between sleep & depression
Getting a good night’s sleep could be the key to waking up feeling great
Counted enough sleep to last a lifetime and still not drifting off to the land of nod? Find out whether your sleeplessness could be causing you to feel low, or whether feeling low is stopping you from sleeping properly.
What is depression?
We all feel a little low at times, and sadness is a completely normal emotion. Sometimes though, it’s more than simply feeling a bit blue.
Depression comes in lots of shapes and sizes, and struggling to nod off is just one of the symptoms. Remember, if you’re consistently feeling very low, speak to your GP for help and advice.
Depression & insomnia
Insomnia is where you struggle to fall or stay asleep. You may find yourself tossing and turning all night waiting for sleep to come, or you might get to sleep easily enough only to wake an hour or so later unable to drift back off.
It may come as no surprise that depression is linked to insomnia. It can sometimes be hard to suss out whether depression is making it difficult for you to get to sleep, or whether lack of sleep is causing your low mood. Whichever way round it might be, your GP will be able to help if you feel depressed and are struggling with insomnia.
Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a powerful urge to move or jerk your legs (and sometimes your arms). It’s usually worse in the evening and at night time.
If you have a mild case of restless legs syndrome, lifestyle changes can help. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed, and go to bed at a similar time each day. Quitting smoking and exercising more could also help relieve symptoms (as well as helping you generally look and feel better!).
Some more severe cases of restless legs syndrome can cause sleep difficulty and even anxiety and depression. If you feel restless legs syndrome is causing you to become anxious or depressed, speak to your GP for advice.
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Obstructive sleep apnoea is where you briefly wake up several times during the night. Your breathing may stop and start and you may snore loudly or make gasping or choking noises.
You’ll probably be unaware of this happening during the night, but whoever you share a room with will be able to tell you if you have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea – chances are it’ll be affecting their sleep too!
You might also wake up with a headache, suffer mood swings or irritability during the day or find it hard to concentrate.
Research has shown that people with sleep apnoea are more likely to suffer from depression, so if you have symptoms of sleep apnoea (or someone has witnessed you have symptoms) have a chat with your GP.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
If you find your sleep struggles are more common during winter, it’s possible you could have SAD.
Sometimes known as ‘winter depression’, symptoms of SAD usually appear during the dark winter months, and disappear when spring arrives. Symptoms include low mood, struggling to get up in the mornings and sleeping for longer.
If this sounds like you, the good news is there are certain lifestyle tweaks that can help.
It’s important to get enough sunlight, which can sometimes be tricky during the winter months. Step forward sunrise-simulating alarm clocks and light therapy lamps, both of which can help with SAD symptoms. Eating healthily and getting enough exercise can also help ease SAD symptoms.
If you think you have SAD and you’re not coping, speak to your GP about suitable treatment options.
Lack of sleep & depression
Depression can stop you from sleeping properly, but not getting enough sleep can also cause depression. Whichever way you look at it, getting a good night’s slumber is super important.
Whether you’re distracted by social media, staying up late to binge-watch box sets or just struggle to switch off, burning the candle at both ends could lead to a low mood.
Struggling to drift off to the land of nod? Take a look at our top sleep tips to help you get some serious slumber.
If low mood is causing you to lose sleep, or you’re on medication for depression and it’s interfering with getting a good night’s sleep, speak to your GP. They’ll be able to give you advice and possibly tweak your medication, so you can sleep easy.
Whether you struggle to sleep every now and then, never get a good night’s shut-eye or feel like you might be depressed, it’s always good to talk. Reach out to a friend to swap sleep and self-care tips (chances are they’ve struggled themselves at some point).
If you think you might be depressed, get in touch with your GP. They’ll be able to give you tips and techniques to help lift your mood, as well as any treatment options.
It’s time to plump up your pillow and get set for sweet dreams.