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The connection between Depression and Insomnia

Over the years, clinical research has shown that it’s not uncommon to have both insomnia and depression. The relationship appears to be bi-directional, and studies show that treating one condition may help resolve the other.


Over half of all people diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) have significant sleep difficulties.

Insomnia can be a little different for everyone. Some might have trouble falling asleep, others, staying asleep, & some people can't wake up when they want to. Insomnia prevents you from getting enough sleep to function well.

Early morning wakefulness, and the inability to bunker down and fall asleep can sometimes be a sign of depression. Poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen symptoms of many mental health issues, including depression 10-fold. The two are so closely linked that each one can contribute to the other. Some studies have indicated that depression and sleep may share risk factors as well as biological features, making them rise and fall together.

"Sleep problems can be both a symptom of and a risk factor for depression."


So why do the two go hand in hand?

We have linked insomnia to depression through keeping track of emotions via clinical trials. When someone suffers from lack of sleep, they have a more difficult time regulating their emotions. Their overall emotional resilience—the buffer of positive emotions that allows people to deal with stress—deteriorates, leaving them vulnerable to depression.

Research has gathered that having one condition increases the risk of having the other. The researchers in past studies also noted that insomnia predicts depression more consistently than depression predicts insomnia. We have also seen that people with insomnia and depression tend to have more severe depressive symptoms than people with depression alone.

Other biological factors unite sleep problems and depression. For instance, in places like New England, where we have long gloomy seasons, many people suffer from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, which is largely caused by the low light levels of fall and winter. These lower light levels alter the body’s natural circadian rhythms, throwing off our sleep patterns and contributing to SAD.

More information still needs to be gathered for better information and more treatment options, but so far we do know for a fact that sleep problems negatively impact depression.


"If I have Depression and Insomnia, which one should I have treated first?"

If you are experiencing both sleep issues and depression, treating just one might not be enough to significantly help the other. Because they are so closely related, they respond best when both are addressed, and since they are intricately connected, depression and sleep problems often can be helped by the same treatment approaches. Some antidepressants are now being prescribed at bedtime because they happen to be sedating. A side effect that can be helpful with sleep issues. It’s important to work closely with your doctor and report new or worsening symptoms when taking any medication, since their effects can vary. New discoveries through research may offer better options in the near future.

Effective ways of overcoming both depression and insomnia include:

Therapy—specifically, an approach called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) uses strategies that correct negative thoughts that plague you day and night

Nutrition & lifestyle changes

Discovering and implementing relaxation techniques

Enhancing your support system


Understanding the relationship between sleep and depression, and recognizing your own experiences can help you get the right treatment. The approach to treatment depends on the individual, and their Doctor. Treatment can help you overcome both sleep and depression as well as prevent depression relapse. Notice if you’re having sleep problems and how they’re affecting you you’re your depression symptoms. Seeing your doctor can help you overcome both.

Green Mountain Research Institute is conducting a study on people who suffer from both Depression and Insomnia. To Qualify:

  • Must be 18 and older

  • Be diagnosed with Depression

  • Have sleep issues

Participants receive all study related exams, and investigational treatment for free. Participants may also be compensated for time and travel during participation.

Find out more by calling (802) 855-8368, or fill out our online form here to be contacted by one of our coordinators.

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