It’s not uncommon for depression to impact the quality and quantity of your sleep.

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If you’re living with depression, you may feel fatigued, exhausted, and sleep-deprived often. This can be the case for a few reasons.

For example, both insomnia and hypersomnia can make you feel tired all the time, and both are sleep challenges connected to depression.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes restlessness and difficulty getting to sleep. Meanwhile, hypersomnia refers to a condition where people oversleep and sleep at irregular times.

Regardless of which sleep problem you’re experiencing, some form of sleep disruption is present in most people with depression. The experience of sleep issues might even be one of the first reasons you seek support for depression to begin with.

You may be wondering which comes first: depression or sleep disruption? The truth is that either can be the starting point.

People with a condition like insomnia may be more likely to develop depression. In this case, sleep deprivation is the cause of depression. But in other cases, the emotional and cognitive irregularities of depression will cause the sleep issues you may be having.

When depression is the cause of disordered sleeping, it can happen in both direct and indirect ways. For example, depression in and of itself can just make it harder to get good sleep.

Research suggests that people with depression experience less rapid eye movement (REM) in their sleep. The REM stage of sleep is an important state that can impact memory, mental focus, and mood.

So, getting less REM sleep as a result of depression can exaggerate the mental symptoms of depression, like the feeling of hopelessness or emptiness — and also the physical symptoms, like fatigue.

Depression can also lead to lower levels of serotonin. And serotonin has been known for many years to play a role in the switch from the wake to sleep state.

For example, research suggests that tryptophan, an amino acid, could help with both depression and sleep disorders. This may be because it plays a role in the production of serotonin.

In addition, people with depression often show altered circadian rhythms, which can cause trouble with sleep.

Put simply, the circadian rhythm is the body’s internal clock. It refers to the body’s ability to track and undergo changes at different points in the day. For example, our bodies tend to feel naturally more tired at 3 a.m. than they do at 10 a.m.

So, if you feel more energized at 3 a.m. than at 10 a.m. (and this isn’t the norm for you), it could be caused by a sleep disorder associated with an altered circadian rhythm and depression.

Depression can also affect your sleep patterns in more indirect ways. When you have depression, it can be harder to exercise regularly or get the right nutrition, both of which can impact your energy levels.

Other ways depression can affect your sleeping include:

  • making it harder to wake up in the morning
  • napping during the day, making sleep more difficult at night
  • waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again

Two common sleep issues tied to depression are insomnia and hypersomnia — but there are a couple more, too. And if you live with depression, you might also experience more than just one sleep issue.

Insomnia

If you have insomnia, you may be more likely to develop depression, and vice versa. People with depression may be more likely to develop insomnia.

About 1 in 10 people will experience Insomnia in their lifetime, but this number is thought to be higher if you live with depression.

Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is less common than insomnia, but it’s a sleep issue still highly connected to depression. It can cause severe drowsiness during the day to the point that it impacts your day-to-day tasks.

It tends to be a feature of atypical depression, and the age of onset is around 20 years old.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is another sleep condition associated with depression. It’s a condition characterized by repeated episodes of upper airway closure during sleep.

People with obstructive sleep apnea often complain of loud, disruptive, interrupted snoring paired with unrefreshing sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue.

Research suggests that your chances of depression could be higher if you live with obstructive sleep apnea, but it’s much less likely that depression increases your chances of obstructive sleep apnea.

Major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern

Commonly called seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression, this condition involves symptoms of depression that flare up during certain times of the year. Seasonal depression usually occurs in the winter due to less sunlight, but it also impacts some people during the lighter months instead.

Because seasonal depression impacts the circadian rhythm during certain times of year when there’s more or less sunlight, it can cause changes in sleep.

If you live with seasonal depression, you might sleep more in the winter or have trouble sleeping in the summer due to changes in the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to.

Living with depression can alter or negatively impact your sleep patterns, but there are ways to combat this.

Maintain a routine

Being consistent with your sleep schedule can be good training for your mind and body. Doing what you can to build habits that support good sleep could help reduce depression symptoms caused or worsened by irregular sleep.

Not sure what to add to your sleep routine? Here are some ideas:

  • Pick a bedtime that works for you, and stick with it as consistently as possible.
  • Drink a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile is one research-backed choice for good sleep.
  • Practice a 5-minute meditation, breathing exercise, or body scan.
  • Read one chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to pick up.
  • Play some calming music as you get ready for bed to help you switch into sleep mode.

Here’s even more info if you’re looking for a deeper dive.

Avoid screens

Research suggests that the blue light that comes from our electronics screens — phones, tablets, and TVs — can make it harder for us to feel drowsy at bedtime.

This is because blue light can suppress melatonin production, and melatonin is an important chemical that supports healthy sleep.

Move regularly

Depression tends to make it much harder to find the energy to go outside or to the gym. But if you want to gain some of the benefits of exercise, like better sleep, it’s not always necessary to go for a high-intensity run or spend an hour at the gym.

A good exercise philosophy is this: The best exercise is the movement you can do. This means that if a 30-minute walk around your neighborhood is what you can do, it’s likely a great choice.

Some other ways to get moving include:

  • turning on your favorite music and letting your body move naturally with it
  • choosing a room in your house to clean or organize
  • riding your bike to someplace you enjoy, like a park or coffee shop

The relationship between sleep and depression is complex. Sometimes depression can cause irregular sleep, and other times, poor quality sleep makes you more prone to experiencing depression down the line.

If you’re experiencing depression, it’s likely that you feel you should be getting better sleep. In addition to choosing sleep habits that work for you, looking into support for depression — whether you decide on therapy, medication, or a self-care approach — could also help you reduce those symptoms and feel better-rested.