Man standing by bed

"One study showed that 75% of people with depression have trouble falling and staying asleep."

If you’re fighting depression, you’re likely facing several hurdles at once. Things like low self-esteem, weight gain, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty thinking or concentrating are all pretty common symptoms of depression.

While some men with depression suffer from fatigue or excessive sleepiness, others experience the opposite. One study showed that 75% of people with depression have trouble falling and staying asleep. This condition is known as insomnia and, over time, can worsen depression symptoms and create long-term health issues.

In this article, we’ll offer tips and advice for improving your sleep quality when also faced with depression. Armed with this information, you can make small changes to your sleep habits that can have a big impact on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

The Link Between Depression and Insomnia

Depression and insomnia are closely linked – some people with insomnia end up developing depression, whereas those with depression can struggle to fall and stay asleep. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on how to overcome insomnia triggered by depression. Persistent negative thoughts, anxiety, and extreme stress brought on by depression can keep you up at night. Some people also struggle with frequent nightmares caused by negative thoughts and feelings.

Depression can negatively impact serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin not only heavily influences feelings of happiness and relaxation, which are imperative for sleep and overcoming depression, but it’s also responsible for maintaining a balanced circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock that signals when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up). Treating insomnia caused by depression starts by reducing depression symptoms and altering your routines and behaviours to promote quality sleep.

Tips for Improving Your Sleep Quality

It’s recommended that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Sleep is crucial for maintaining good physical, mental, and emotional health. Fighting depression can make this feel nearly impossible.

Here are a few ways you can support healthy sleep habits so you can wake to feel rested, rejuvenated, and happy.

Try Different Relaxation Techniques

Men with depression often suffer from an overwhelming sense of sadness and hopelessness. Irritability, agitation, and restlessness are also common symptoms. By practicing relaxation tips and techniques, you can improve your overall mood and reduce stress and anxiety.

Meditation is a popular practice used to balance your emotions, reduce stress, increase focus, and boost creativity. Meditation helps you enter a deep state of calm and relaxation. It teaches you to accept and release negative thoughts and emotions and maintain a sense of overall balance and well-being. Reducing your stress and anxiety will help improve your sleep quality while also easing depression symptoms. Check out these tips on meditation for how to get started.

Other ways to relax include yoga, mindfulness, and breathing exercises. Use these techniques anytime you feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings. This can be especially useful at night when your mind starts to wander and intrusive thoughts keep you alert and awake. Starting your day with a quiet mediation is a great way to embrace positivity and combat feelings of sadness.

Establish a Sleep Schedule

Falling into a deep depression often means losing track of time. One day blends into the next and before long, hopelessness takes over. Schedules help establish normalcy and security. While having a routine for your day is important, establishing a sleep schedule is equally important for combating insomnia.

Depression is often accompanied by lower than normal levels of serotonin. Dips in this neurotransmitter can not only worsen depression symptoms, but also cause an imbalance in your circadian rhythm.

Centuries ago, this system was driven by the rising and setting of the sun. Now, with artificial light and digital devices, people must work to set their own sleep-wake cycle. This means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays, and while traveling. Doing so trains your brain and body into a subconscious pattern. Soon, you’ll find yourself getting tired around the same time each night and waking up before your alarm goes off.

Adopt a Bedtime Routine

In addition to following a sleep schedule, try performing the same sleep ritual each night. Practice calming behaviours like reading, journaling, listening to soothing music, taking a warm bath, or meditating. Your bedtime routine should be relatively consistent. In time, these routines will become a habit, and your brain, body, and mood will all adjust to this new pattern of behaviours.

This can also give you something positive to look forward to for winding down your day, and is another way to signal your brain and body that it’s time for rest.

Avoid using digital devices like watching television or scrolling through social media too close to bedtime. The blue lights emitted by these devices inhibit melatonin production — the hormone responsible for inducing sleep.

Get Active

Exercise is good for the body, mind, soul, and sleep! Adopting a regular exercise routine can help improve your overall mood and physical health, and also make it easier to fall asleep at night. During exercise, your brain releases endorphins that promote feelings of happiness, which may also help ease depression symptoms. Physical activity in the morning helps keep you motivated and positive throughout the day, giving you energy and increased focus.

By the end of the day, you’ll feel tired (in a good way), accomplished, and ready for sleep. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime, which may leave you feeling alert and too keyed up to go to bed.

Create a Welcoming Sleep Environment

Your physical environment plays an important role in how well you sleep. Create a welcoming sleep environment that includes a dark, quiet room and comfortable surroundings. Invest in soft pillows, sheets, and blankets. Room darkening shades, black out curtains, or a sleep mask can help keep unwanted light out. A sound machine can help reduce outside noise and disturbances; often a small fan will do the trick.

Your bedroom should be a relaxing oasis. You want to create an atmosphere that is calming and comfortable. This may also help reduce some of the stress and anxiety that’s triggering your depression.

Once you’ve created a peaceful environment for sleep, reserve this room for that and avoid bringing work, food, or other activities into your bedroom. This confuses your brain into thinking you should be awake and alert in your bedroom rather than sleeping.

Another way to establish this connection is to avoid lying awake in bed too long. If you can’t fall asleep after 15 or 20 minutes, get up and perform one of the relaxing habits mentioned above. Only return to your bed when you feel tired enough to sleep.

Ease Depression and Insomnia Symptoms Simultaneously

The relationship between sleep and depression is complex. By improving your sleep habits, you can reduce depression symptoms. In turn, treating depression can help prevent insomnia. Sleep requires a clear mind, reduced anxiety, and the right environment. Establishing a consistent routine and sticking to it will help establish a sense of calm in your life. Achieving a good night’s sleep can also improve your mood, helping you feel more positive, motivated, and prepared to handle whatever challenges life sends your way.

Guest Author:

Dr. Katherine Hall is a Sleep Psychologist who specializes in treating insomnia. She holds degrees with specializations in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. With over 13 years of clinical experience working in the public and private sector, Katherine is dedicated to improving sleep health.

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