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A Troubling Link

Twenty million Americans are affected by depression, an illness that produces overwhelming and persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. In addition to bringing about changes in appetite and energy, depression is also associated with poor sleep. The most common problem is an inability to fall and/or stay asleep (also known as insomnia); oversleeping affects only a small percentage of those with depression.

The link between sleep and depression is not completely understood. The disorder may lead to sleep problems, but it’s also possible that a lack of adequate rest intensifies depression. In fact, those with insomnia are ten times more likely to be diagnosed with depression compared with people who sleep well. When you don’t get enough sleep, a number of problems arise. Not only can you become fatigued and less inclined to be physically active, but missing out on restorative sleep can bring along feelings of tension and irritability.

What You Can Do About It

If you’re suffering from chronic sleep issues or believe that you may be depressed, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor. If you are diagnosed with depression, your physician may prescribe psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. You may also be able to improve your shuteye by making some lifestyle changes and improving your overall sleep hygiene, such as going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol, caffeine and nicotine in the evening, keeping technology out of the bedroom, and practicing meditation or deep-breathing techniques. Using earplugs or a white noise machine may also help drown out noise from outside the bedroom that could be keeping you awake. Not only do these behaviors promote sleep, but they can also help ease depression.