Learn How Insomnia Leads To Depression

Can’t sleep? Feeling depressed? You’re not alone. Both insomnia and depression are surprisingly common complaints. About 15% of adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Nearly as many suffer occasional bouts of depression.

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograUpdated at: Aug 16, 2019 10:12 IST
Learn How Insomnia Leads To Depression

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The rise of the internet generation has resulted in people getting used to poor sleep hygiene, social anxiety issues, and mindlessness. A lack of overall discipline and self-control is causing this shift in behaviour. Many people are getting prone to insomnia without even realizing it. Almost 16 million adults in the UK, a significant 33% in India, and nearly one in four cases of insomnia in the US have been reported. Battling this condition is quite the ordeal in itself. Mere 30% demographic treated to the point of recovery while others are still battling with this sleeping disorder.

What is Insomnia & When it Needs Medical Attention?

  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic Insomnia is described as ‘disrupted sleep, which can occur at least three nights per week and can last up to three months’. People with chronic insomnia may experience these following symptoms – difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early in the morning, disrupting the sleep cycle, feeling tired or irritable during the daytime, and depression. 
  • Chronic insomnia can be caused due to other pre-existing conditions such as – arthritis, depression, heartburn, cancer, asthma. Certain medicines might also interfere with the normal sleep cycle. If any of these factors are contributing to prolonged insomnia, then it should get the necessary medical treatment. A poor lifestyle can also result in chronic insomnia

What is Depression?

  • Depression is a severe medical condition that interferes with the way we feel, think, and act. Clinical Depression is when the following symptoms are observed for more than two weeks – depressed mood during most of the day, feeling tired or lacking energy, feeling worthless, lack of sleep or sleeping too much, inability to focus etc. 
  • Depression can lead to various emotional and physical problems that can affect a person’s ability to function. However, it is a condition that can be treated with multiple kinds of therapy and medication.  

How Are Insomnia & Depression Connected?

Depression and Insomnia are interrelated in the manner that they can be each other’s symptoms as well as each other’s catalysts.

An estimated 90% of people with severe depression have also reported insomnia as one of the main symptoms. And chronic insomnia is an active catalyst of clinical depression. This relationship has also been determined by a New York Times journal, published on November 18, 2013. This journal talks about the research conducted in Toronto’s Ryerson University, which found that 87% patients whose insomnia was treated by a talk therapy conducted in four biweekly sessions also saw an improvement in signs of depression after eight weeks of treatment. This approach worked without the intervention of any antidepressants and placebo pills. More similar researches have been conducted to determine the link between depression and insomnia. This leads us to our primary question…

Does Insomnia Lead To Depression?

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  • Yes, chronic Insomnia can lead to depression and should be treated as soon as possible. This scientific establishment is backed by the age-old adage that “a bad night’s sleep affects our ability to regulate our emotions”. Our brain has a cornerstone called amygdala, an almond-shaped structure located deep in our mind, which plays an essential role in our emotion and anxiety levels. People who are sleep derived show a more significant amygdala response to emotionally negative things when compared to the ones who are not sleep-deprived. 
  • Another study published in the SLEEP journal stated that chronic insomnia could increase one’s chances of developing anxiety disorders and depression.
  • These studies indicate that we are more likely to get depressed when we are sleep deprived. This is why chronic insomnia should be treated before it leads to a much more critical problem.

How to Manage Insomnia?

  • People with Insomnia require a more disciplined approach to life. Good sleep hygiene can help regulate the sleep cycle and can ultimately restore the regular sleep routine. Additionally, one should maintain a sleep journal for record-keeping.
  • Good sleep hygiene can be practised by following the following steps – limiting daytime naps, avoiding stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine close to bedtime, exercising to ensure quality sleep, avoiding meals close to bedtime, creating a relaxed sleep environment. If a person is still experiencing insomnia despite trying out these steps, then they need to get it treated medically.

How Can Insomnia Be Treated?

Immediate medical care should be provided to people suffering from severe or chronic insomnia. The medical diagnosis will include a sleep examination, a physical examination, a medical history, and a sleep history. A significant part of this assessment is to establish that sleeping for less than 7-8 hours is indeed causing a person to function at sub-optimal levels or leading to physical ailments. Another critical aspect of the assessment is to rule out any physical cause such as OSA (Obstructed Sleep Apnea) or something else. If diagnosed with chronic insomnia, then the practitioner will prescribe the following treatment options.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Medication (Only in some cases)
  • Relaxation Exercises
  • Sleep Restriction Therapy

Insomnia is not a minor glitch, and if it becomes severe, then it can lead to other critical issues. It is a severe condition that one should not take for granted. If you’re experiencing an imbalance in your sleep routine, then do check yourself out for the symptoms as mentioned earlier and get immediate medical care.

(With inputs from Dr Binita Priyambada- Senior Consultant, Medical Team at Docprime.com)

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