Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Most doctors recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night so that the body can rest and recover from daily wear and tear. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to serious health complications, such as heart disease and diabetes.
One of the most common symptoms of depression is insomnia. People with depression often have trouble falling and staying asleep. They wake early in the morning and may feel exhausted even after a full night’s sleep. Because sleep is so important to overall health, both depression and insomnia should be treated as soon as possible to avoid long-term health complications.
Depression Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
Symptoms of depression sleep deprivation include:
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Trouble concentrating.
These symptoms are typical of people who don’t get enough sleep. But some people with depression report these symptoms even after getting a full seven to nine hours of sleep. This may be due to disorganized sleep cycles, according to Psychology Today (2003). Research indicates that depressed people spend an unusually long time in REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep, often skipping over other, more restful stages. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion even after a proper amount of sleep.
Treating Depression Sleep Problems
Insomnia and other depression sleep problems may be treated with:
- Alternative medicines
- Antidepressant drugs
- Over-the-counter sleep aids
- Prescription medications.
Over-the-counter sleep aids usually contain antihistamines, which are normally used to fight allergies. However, since histamine is a brain chemical that keeps you awake, antihistamines also promote drowsiness. Over-the-counter sleep aids include diphenhydramine and doxylamine. Though an effective short-term remedy for sleeplessness, side effects of antihistamines include blurred vision, clumsiness and next-day drowsiness, and should not be used to treat long-term insomnia. Melatonin is another sleep aid that helps some people.
Many prescription sleep aids fall into the category of benzodiazepines. Unfortunately, these prescription sleep medications can cause severe next-day hangovers, with symptoms such as daytime drowsiness, falls and slurred speech. Worse, their effectiveness may wane over time, they can interact with other medications, and they can be addictive. However, some newer prescription sleep aids do not seem to have the severe side effects of older prescription sleep aids.
Some depression patients with sleep problems find herbal remedies effective. Herbs that may have relaxing effects include:
- Kava kava
- Lemon balm
- St. John’s Wort.
As with all medications, be sure to tell your doctor about any alternative treatments you are using, as herbal remedies can adversely interact with other medications, including antidepressants.
Often, the most effective treatment for depression sleep problems is an antidepressant. If the underlying depressive disorder is treated, insomnia often clears up as well. In addition, certain antidepressants have sedative effects. They are less likely than prescription sleep aids to cause dependence, and their side effects are less severe. In fact, they are so effective that doctors often prescribe antidepressants as a remedy for sleeplessness, even in patients with no history of depression.
Doghramji, K. (2008). Insomnia. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.merck.com/mmhe/sec06/ch081/ch081b.html.
Marano, H.E. (2003). Bedfellows: Insomnia and depression. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/bedfellows-insomnia-and-depression.
Medical News Today. (2006). Treating insomnia with over-the-counter sleep aids, herbal supplements: AASM position statement. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/58514.php.
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.
Saisan, J., Kemp, G., Barson, S. (2008). Sleeping pills, sleep aids and medications. Retrieved May 31, 2010, from helpguide.org/life/sleep_aids_medication_insomnia_treatment.htm.