After a bad day, it’s normal to lie awake at night, ruminating about what went wrong. However, if you find that your sleep is disrupted on a regular basis by feelings of unhappiness, anxiety, or hopelessness, it could be a sign that something more serious is going on. For the approximately 20 million people affected by depression, restless nights and insomnia can unfortunately go hand-in-hand.
The relationship between poor sleep and depression is complex—partially thanks to the fact that it’s a “chicken or the egg” scenario. While some people can develop insomnia due to their depression, for others, the sleep issue may be at the root of their chronic sadness. In fact, people who have insomnia have a tenfold chance of developing depression compared with those who sleep well. Sleep apnea, a serious sleep-related breathing disorder, is also linked to depression.
While depression can affect anyone, it’s more common in women and older adults, which could explain why there are higher rates of insomnia in these two groups. And sleep problems brought on by a negative mood can develop even during childhood. Among adolescents who report being unhappy, 73 percent do not get proper sleep at night.
Living with depression and insomnia is challenging, but it is possible to boost your mood and improve your sleep. If you suspect that you have depression—or that your chronic insomnia is causing you to become unhappy or anxious—your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that targets both issues. Warning signs of depression include loss of interest in activities that you used to love, changes in your weight or appetite, loss of libido and energy, concentration problems, and thoughts of death or suicide. While professional counseling and drugs are sometimes recommended treatments, you can also aim to reduce your stress and anxiety levels (common triggers) through methods such as meditation and exercise.