Insomnia is a common symptom of depression. In fact, according to Psychology Today (2003), at least 80 percent of people with depression experience some degree of insomnia.
Unfortunately, sleep is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle that the combination of depression and insomnia often results in a vicious cycle. Fragmented and disordered sleep may lead to more severe depression symptoms. Furthermore, more severe depression can contribute to chronic insomnia.
Symptoms of Insomnia
Insomnia typically refers to three types of sleeping disorders: inability to fall asleep, frequent waking during the night and early waking in the morning. Other symptoms of insomnia include:
- Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention or focusing
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Increased errors or accidents
- Tension headaches.
People who have insomnia with depression often report not feeling rested even after a full night’s sleep. This is because people suffering from depression often experience disordered sleep. A normal sleep cycle consists of clearly defined stages: drowsiness, light sleep, deep sleep and REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep.
Depressed people tend to go directly into the REM stage after falling asleep. Because REM sleep is the time at which dreams occur, spending too much time in this stage can result in restless sleep. During REM sleep, the brain processes emotional memories. When a person is depressed, the extra time spent in REM sleep may cause them to hold onto too many unpleasant memories.
Depression Insomnia Treatment
Fortunately, some medications designed to treat depression often have a mild sedative effect that improves insomnia symptoms as well. Trazodone, for example, is a commonly prescribed depression insomnia treatment. Other antidepressants, such as doxepin and mitrazapine, may also help relieve symptoms of insomnia.
In some cases, doctors prescribe these antidepressants instead of tranquilizers or prescription sleeping pills, because antidepressants don’t carry the same risk of dependence that other sleep aids do. Antidepressants are also less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms. However, not all antidepressants have been well studied for treatment of insomnia.
Therapy and lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise program, may also be effective depression insomnia treatment. If you find that your depression is improving but you’re still struggling with insomnia, talk with your doctor about other options. It may turn out that you require a sleep aid in addition to antidepressants and therapy.
Doghramji, K. (2008). Insomnia. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from www.merck.com/mmhe/sec06/ch081/ch081b.html.
Marano, H.E. (2003). Bedfellows: Insomnia and depression. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/bedfellows-insomnia-and-depression.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Insomnia: Symptoms. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia/ds00187/dsection=symptoms.
Park, M. (2009). Antidepressants, not sleep drugs, often prescribed for insomnia. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/07/24/insomnia.treatment/index.html.