Depression is a mental disorder marked by a prolonged overwhelming sense of sadness and despair. People with depression usually experience a number of physical symptoms, including sleep problems. The most widespread of depression sleep problems is insomnia, but approximately 15 percent of depressed people experience hypersomnia, or sleeping too much, according to CBS News (2005).

Sufficient sleep is important for good health. It allows the body time to rebuild and recuperate from the strain of daily life. On the other hand, oversleeping can lead to a number of health problems, including obesity and diabetes.

Depression and Sleep

Doctors recommend that the average adult sleep between seven to nine hours each night. But people experiencing depression often get too much sleep, slumbering for many more hours than recommended. They may also experience extreme levels of sleepiness throughout the day. Naps often don’t help relieve daytime sleepiness in these cases. Other problems linked to depression and too much sleep include:

  • Anxiety
  • Low levels of energy
  • Memory problems.

Researchers have identified several possible reasons for hypersomnia. The most obvious cause is the lethargy that comes with depression. People with depression are often so exhausted at the thought of dealing with everyday life that they use sleep as an escape from their problems.

New studies, however, indicate that people with depression spend more time in REM sleep than in any other stage of sleep. REM, or rapid-eye movement sleep, is the fifth stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. The other stages of sleep include:

  • Stage 1: Drowsiness
  • Stage 2: Light sleep
  • Stages 3 and 4: Deep sleep

Most people cycle through these stages several times each night. But research indicates that depressed people spend more time in REM sleep than their non-depressed counterparts, often experiencing the other stages out of order or skipping them entirely. REM sleep isn’t particularly restful, and without adequate time spent in the other stages–particularly deep sleep–to recover from it, a person can wake up exhausted even after a full night’s sleep.

Treating Depression Sleep Problems

Most treatments for depression are effective at treating hypersomnia. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs regulate the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood and sleep cycles, in the brain and are believed to be the safest antidepressants available. If SSRIs don’t work, other antidepressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are effective at treating both depression and sleep problems.

Small lifestyle changes can also help relieve hypersomnia. People who sleep too much should follow a strict sleep schedule and avoid night work or social activities that interfere with that schedule. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine in the evenings is also helpful. Finally, a healthy diet and exercise program often helps regulate sleeping habits.

Resources

Depression Guide. (2005). Too much sleep. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.depression-guide.com/too-much-sleep.htm.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2008). NINDS hypersomnia information page. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hypersomnia/hypersomnia.htm.

Parker, H. (2005). Is oversleeping hazardous to your health? Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/14/health/webmd/main4521622.shtml.

Tyrrell, M. (n.d.). Understanding depression. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.clinical-depression.co.uk/dlp/understanding-depression/understanding-depression/.

 Posted on : June 26, 2014