Depression and insomnia are both very common in the United Kingdom.
About a sixth of the population in England aged between 16 and 64 are suffering from depression at any given time and about 31% of people in the UK believing they suffer from insomnia.
Both conditions can deplete your energy levels — leaving you feeling tired, sad and irritable.
Insomnia and depression also have the potential to change your mood, cause headaches and impair your concentration levels.
Researchers have discovered that the two conditions are actually very closely related.
Not only have they found that insomnia is a symptom of depression — new research has discovered that insomnia can also cause depression.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle where insomnia makes a person depressed and their depression makes them sleep even less.
This article will look at how these two conditions are linked and how treating your insomnia may ease any depression symptoms that you are experiencing.
What is the link between insomnia and depression?
It is obvious that insomnia and depression have some kind of link because of the many symptoms they share.
Having insomnia can lead to a loss of pleasure in your life, which is a major symptom of depression.
Insomnia can also cause anxiety, changes in mood, difficulty concentrating, slowness in activity, headaches and irritability — all very common symptoms in people suffering depression.
Anxiety is a particularly troublesome symptom of insomnia.
When a person becomes anxious about their ability to get to sleep, it can cause the release of stress hormones that make it even harder to sleep.
Anxiety is also a major risk factor for depression.
Researchers have discovered that the link between insomnia and depression is quite complex.
Recent findings indicate that having insomnia makes the risk of recurring depression far greater.
Not only can insomnia be a trigger for depression — it can make a person’s depression longer-lasting and more severe.
Treating insomnia to reduce depression symptoms
After discovering that insomnia can trigger depression or make it worse, researcher began testing how insomnia treatments can affect depression symptoms.
An early trial involved 56 participants with depression and insomnia.
The researchers gave the participants psychotherapy to treat their insomnia.
They found that half of the subjects had their depression symptoms ease, even though they weren’t specifically being treated for depression.
A larger study of more than 500 people with used medication to treat people with insomnia and depression.
The research team found that participants receiving antidepressants and insomnia medication did better than the patients only receiving antidepressants.
If you are suffering from insomnia and/or depression the two most common treatment options are:
1) Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-I)
Cognitive behavioural therapy will encourage positive thought processes relating to sleep.
Instead of going to be thinking “oh great another night of looking at the ceiling”, you will have thoughts like “It will take some time to sleep but I am tired”.
CBT-I will help you go to sleep with a calm and relaxed mind, making it easier to drift off.
There are a variety of medications available which make it easier to go to sleep and stay asleep during the night.
You can also try other complementary treatments like mindfulness meditation and acupuncture, which may ease your insomnia.
Which approach should you try?
Each individual responds to CBT-I and sleep medications differently.
While most insomnia-sufferers find CBT-I to be effective, some people find it insufficient to deal with their insomnia.
Others find the side effects that occur when taking sleep medications to be intolerable.
You should work in conjunction with your doctor to find the right approach for you.
It’s important to understand that CBT-I takes time to be effective.
You may need two or three months of CBT-I sessions before there is a noticeable difference in your sleep patterns.
The good news is that CBT-I is typically very effective and will result in long-lasting change.
As always, it is important to talk to a medical professional if you are suffering from insomnia or depression.
They will work with you to find an effective treatment and help you get a great night’s sleep once more.