Depression and sleepiness: is there a link?

August 11, 2020 4 mins read
Depression and sleepiness: is there a link?

If you’ve constantly been feeling tired or are experiencing bouts of sadness and anxiety, you could be suffering from depression sleepiness. Depression and sleepiness are two conditions that can make you feel exhausted, even after a good night’s sleep.

In this article, we explain why it’s possible to experience both conditions at the same time and how easy it is to mistake these feelings of being constantly tired for depression, and vice-versa.

Is there a link between insomnia and depression?

The link between insomnia and depression is complicated and often can be the cause of each other’s disorders. Disrupted sleep can lead to emotional changes (depression or anxiety), and symptoms of depression can bring on sleep disorders.

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression or feel you may suffer from symptoms of anxiety, two of the key signals to look out for are:

  • You have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep.
  • You have an unhealthy desire to nap regularly, causing oversleeping.

Where it becomes complicated, is that having insomnia or difficulty sleeping does not in itself cause depression. Still, the lack of sleep plays a role in your emotional and mental wellbeing. If you are experiencing stressful times or have an illness that is creating sleep deprivation, then the chances of bringing on depression sleepiness will be more common.

How does sleep affect your mental health?

A good night’s sleep really can make a difference to your psychological health. There is clear evidence that sleep deprivation can harm our emotional and physical wellbeing.

Poor sleep can lead to fatigue. With fatigue, you start to feel less motivated, which can lead to unhealthy habits. Eventually, you could find yourself in a vicious cycle of inactivity, unhealthy eating and, in turn, disturbed sleep. If you carry on with a poor sleep cycle, you could become at risk of developing mental health issues such as depression sleepiness.

Every mood our mental state controls is, in some way, connected to our sleeping habits. Sleep deprivation over time can chip away at our happiness and ability to cope in stressful situations. You can start to feel less enthusiastic, more irritable and short-tempered by slight everyday annoyances. There is even the risk of unearthing possible feelings of depression like feeling empty or sad. All these alterations to your mood from one-to-many restless nights can harm your mental health and could incur a more serious clinical diagnosis.

It’s key to know that sleep plays an important restorative function in ‘recharging’ the brain at the end of each day, just like we need to charge a mobile phone after a day’s use, so should we re-power our brains with good sleep. Every 90 minutes, you cycle through 5 stages of sleep. At the deepest stage of sleep, your brain starts to perform physiological changes that help boost your immune system. In rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, your brain starts to restore your learning and memory, which contributes to emotional health. When we are sleep deprived, we can see how this can start to wreak havoc on our brain, impairing our thinking and emotional regulation.

Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle will reset our body’s natural rhythm every day, and is a fundamental task in helping our brains’ function, stimulating both mental and emotional resilience.

Address your sleep problems

Addressing sleep problems early on is important in protecting your overall health and wellness. We can all benefit from improving our quality of sleep, and in many cases, it may be as simple as a change of habit. Often basic sleep techniques can improve your sleep, and making small lifestyle or attitude adjustments to your nightly routine can help you sleep better.

If you do, however, continue to have sleeping problems despite keeping a healthy sleep routine, there may be an underlying issue. Treating sleep problems alongside mental health problems can help address both symptoms and causes, leading to a quicker recovery.

We all know the phrase, “get out of bed and pull yourself together,” but uncharacteristic lethargy, tiredness, and disturbed sleep can be signs of underlying mental health problems.

If you find yourself sleeping too little or too much regularly, it’s important to bring this up with your local GP so together you can look at your total physical and mental health picture and identify the best course of treatment.