How Depression Affects Your Sleep (and What to Do About It)

How Depression Affects Your Sleep (and What to Do About It)

People suffering from depressive disorders often deal with low energy and consuming fatigue. Those who cope with persistent sleep difficulties often experience irritable moods and diminished interest in routine activities.

Depression and sleep disturbance have a bidirectional relationship: Just as depression can lead to the emergence of a co-occurring sleep disorder, poor sleep quality can contribute to the development of depression. Even worse, these two life-impairing problems can actively perpetuate one another.

Here at EXIS Recovery Inc. in West Los Angeles, California, our expert mental health team understands that depression treatment is most successful when related sleep problems are fully addressed, too. 

Read on to explore the two-way, circular path between depression and sleep disruption, and find out how the right treatment approach can help with both.

Sleep problems as a sign of depression

Depression and sleep disturbance are separate but firmly intertwined problems. They’re so closely related, in fact, that most mental health specialists hesitate to diagnose depression in the absence of sleep difficulties. 

Simply put, sleep disturbance is considered a key symptom of depression, and it affects almost everyone who lives with the disease. 

Research shows that the brain changes seen in people with depression can have a disruptive effect on pivotal aspects of your “sleep architecture,” ranging from your normal circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycle to the quality and length of your most restorative sleep cycles.

People with depression are far more likely to take longer to fall asleep, wake more frequently and remain awake longer, and experience diminished (shorter, fewer, less restful) cycles of slow-wave and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. 

Sleep disorders associated with depression

Depression is strongly associated with three specific sleep disorders: 


Insomnia is, by far, the most common sleep problem for people with depression: About three in four people with depression suffer from chronic insomnia, meaning they have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both, even when conditions are conducive to sleep. This includes early unplanned awakenings, a frequent depression symptom.

Insomnia is also a major risk factor in both new-onset depression and recurrent depression. People who’ve never experienced depression before are more vulnerable to developing it if they struggle with insomnia; people with depression who’ve achieved symptom remission are more likely to relapse into depression if they have unmanaged insomnia.


An estimated 15% of people with depression experience hypersomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness that isn’t eased by a full night’s slumber. Hypersomnia affects adolescents and younger adults to a greater degree (about two in five depressed people under 30 have hypersomnia) than older adults. Some people experience bouts of insomnia and hypersomnia during the same depressive episode. 

Hypersomnia often occurs with atypical depression, a specific type of depression in which a person’s mood can temporarily improve in response to a positive event. As many as one in three people (primarily women) with a depressive disorder has atypical depression.

Sleep apnea

Approximately one in five people with depression suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a chronic sleep disorder that causes the muscles in your airway to relax and collapse inward, triggering frequent, repeated breathing pauses followed by partial awakenings as your brain stimulates respiration. 

While loud, chronic snoring is often cited as a telltale sign of OSA, it’s important to note that persistent fatigue, lack of energy, daytime sleepiness, irritability, and poor concentration — all of which are overlapping symptoms of major depression — are also common OSA signs. 

Free yourself from the depression-sleeplessness cycle 

Depression and sleep disruption are highly distressing problems that can take an enormous toll on your life. But it doesn’t have to be that way — there are effective treatment options for depression and co-occurring sleep disorders, and a comprehensive care plan addresses both in equal measure.

It’s essential to remember that disrupted sleep isn’t just a consequence of depression; it can also be a contributing factor. To break this cycle, you need a two-pronged approach that aims to alleviate your depression symptoms as it simultaneously addresses your sleep problem.

While that process looks different depending on the type and severity of the depressive and sleep disorders involved, it’s important to find a combination of evidence-based treatments and therapies that work well on both fronts. In other words, it’s difficult to gain full relief on either front unless you attain it on both fronts. 

Our experienced team can help you do just that. To learn more about treatment for depression and co-occurring sleep disruption, call 424-244-3513 or click online to schedule a visit at EXIS Recovery Inc. in West Los Angeles today. 

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