Understanding the Bidirectional Link Between Insomnia and Depression

Sep 06, 2023
Understanding the Bidirectional Link Between Insomnia and Depression
Insomnia and depression often go hand in hand, creating an inseparable team that magnifies your symptoms and makes every day a struggle. Keep reading to learn how they’re connected and the treatments that improve both conditions.

The two-way relationship between insomnia and depression magnifies their impact on your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Each one directly influences the other. Depression can cause insomnia and insomnia leads to depression. 

At the same time, treating one also improves the other.

Nearly half of people with insomnia are also depressed, while 80-90% of those diagnosed with depression have insomnia. The two conditions are so connected it’s often hard to tell which one came first or whether you have insomnia, depression, or both.

You don’t need to figure out which condition is responsible for your low energy, foggy brain, and depressed mood. You can depend on the empathy and skill of Kevin Joseph, DNP, PMHNP-BC, at Insight Psychiatric Services to navigate both conditions, identifying your sleep and mental health needs and creating a customized care plan that helps you overcome both.

Let’s look at how each condition affects the other and the treatments that can help.

How insomnia is related to depression

Lack of sleep causes anxiety, affects your physical and mental performance, and makes it hard to cope with daily life. As a result, you feel stressed, worthless, tired, and down — putting you on the edge of depression.

This relentless cycle continues, with insomnia feeding depression, until a full-blown depressive disorder develops.

Insomnia has the power to:

  • Increase the severity of existing depression
  • Raise your risk of developing new depression
  • Lower your response to depression treatment
  • Reduce your emotional resilience, making you vulnerable to depression

Overall, people with insomnia have double the risk for depression compared to those who get a good night’s sleep.

How depression is related to insomnia

Insomnia is one of the earliest and most common symptoms of depression. Depression may cause insomnia through several pathways, including:

Brain function

Depression is linked to low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and also has an important role in ensuring you get a good night’s sleep. And depression may also cause hyperarousal, which interferes with your ability to sleep because it makes you alert and anxious.

Behavioral changes

When you’re depressed, you may engage in behaviors that affect your sleep, such as watching TV or using your computer at night. Electronics send out blue light that disrupts your sleep-wake cycle.

You may consume more caffeine in an effort to boost the low energy caused by depression. Or depression may make you turn to alcohol, which also affects your sleep.

Mental health changes

Many people with depression think about their problems or struggle with negative thoughts when they lay down to sleep. In addition to affecting your sleep, these ruminations make bedtime a stressful event, further contributing to insomnia.

Treating insomnia and depression

Dr. Joseph offers patient-centered care, creating individualized treatment plans that meet each person’s mental health needs. As a specialist in medication management, he may recommend antidepressants or medication targeting your insomnia. 

Antidepressants restore serotonin levels, which may improve depression and insomnia. Though several sleep medications are available, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is considered to be the most effective treatment for insomnia. 

CBT-I is a time-limited therapy that incorporates a range of techniques, including:

  • Thought management (controlling negative thoughts that keep you awake)
  • Stress management (identifying stressors and creating a stress management plan)
  • Environmental changes (turning off lights and electronics; keeping the room cool)
  • Relaxation training (techniques like meditation that calm your mind and body)
  • Sleep hygiene changes (changing habits that disrupt sleep)

Don’t put off seeking help for depression and/or insomnia. As long as you have one, your symptoms of the other one are likely to get worse.

Call us at Insight Psychiatric Services in Sunrise, Florida, or use online booking to request an in-person or telehealth appointment and begin treatment to ease depression and restore your sleep.