Depression and Insomnia
Depression and insomnia are incredibly common conditions, and in many instances, the presence of one can influence the symptoms of the other. But while depression is a mental health condition, insomnia is a sleep disorder. More than 60 million people in the U.S. have insomnia each year, and it primarily affects women and people over the age of 65. Depression, on the other hand, can happen to anyone. However, certain risk factors can make a person more susceptible to experiencing symptoms, such as having a close family member with the disorder. But how does depression make insomnia worse, or vice versa? The following article will cover the different types of insomnia, and how it can influence or worsen the symptoms of depression.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder, and there are several clinical subtypes of the condition. All types of insomnia can severely impact a person’s quality of life.
Acute insomnia is when a patient has a brief period where they have trouble sleeping. Usually, acute insomnia is triggered by a stressful event, and it typically resolves on its own without treatment.
A prolonged pattern of difficulty sleeping characterizes this condition. A person is diagnosed with chronic insomnia if they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for at least three months or longer. People with chronic insomnia usually have a long medical history of sleep difficulty, and the condition can have numerous causes.
Comorbid insomnia refers to sleep difficulties that occur along with another condition, such as depression or anxiety. Physical health problems can also trigger comorbid insomnia, like back pain, arthritis, or obstructive sleep apnea.
This type of insomnia refers to the particular time of night that a person has trouble sleeping. Patients with onset insomnia have problems falling asleep. But once they manage to fall asleep, they are usually able to get several hours of quality sleep uninterrupted.
These patients usually don’t have an issue falling asleep at the start of bedtime, but have a hard time staying asleep. People with maintenance insomnia frequently wake during the night and may have trouble falling back asleep once they do.
Women and people who are over the age of 60 are the most at-risk of insomnia. Lifestyle factors can also influence the onset of insomnia, including working a night shift, shift work, frequent travel, and poor sleeping environment.
Insomnia can be incredibly distressing for patients. Not getting a good night’s sleep can lead to quality of life issues, performance problems and work, relationship issues, and a general feeling of discomfort as patients go about their day sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep can worsen physical health problems, and lead to decreased immunity.
Insomnia is treatable, but it’s not always easy to find a treatment plan that works for the patient and is also safe to use long-term. Many prescription sleep aids can be habit-forming. Lying awake late at night for hours on end can also increase feelings of anxiety and frustration.
How are depression and insomnia linked?
The issues that stem from insomnia can trigger anxiety and depression episodes in susceptible patients. What can make things challenging for clinicians is parsing out which disorder came first and how best to treat these comorbid conditions. For example, an episode of depression can also trigger insomnia. Sleep disturbances are common depression symptoms. Patients who are depressed can find themselves either sleep far too much or far too little. Studies have found that depression is over-represented in sleep-disturbed populations. In most mood disorders, sleep disturbances are especially common.
Although sleep issues like insomnia are common symptoms of depression, symptoms related to sleep issues often appear before the onset of a depression episode. Studies on insomnia and depression have found that insomnia is a serious risk factor for either the initial development of depression or for triggering a recurrence of the disorder. This risk factor has been found in people of all age groups. Researchers have also found that depression and comorbid insomnia will influence the progression of the mood disorder, such that episodes will be more severe, longer-lasting, and patients will be at increased risk of relapse for depression.
Can treating insomnia influence the severity or relapse of depressive episodes?
Fortunately, treating insomnia effectively can severely reduce the impact, duration, and relapse recurrence rates of depression. Studies have found that medical interventions, talk therapy interventions and nonpharmacological treatments for insomnia can reduce and prevent depression episodes from recurring. Research in this area indicates that insomnia which is present before, during, and after a bout of depression is a modifiable factor, and adequately treating the adverse sleep condition can give depressed patients favorable outcomes related to the mood disorder.
How are these two conditions treated?
Depression, depending on the severity and the patient’s medical history, can be treated with either therapy alone, medications alone, a combination of the two, or deep-brain stimulation techniques. The majority of depressed patients find relief from their symptoms with medications and talk therapy. Those who don’t benefit from these methods can find relief with deep brain stimulation techniques for faster, more intense relief of depression symptoms.
Patients with comorbid depression and insomnia can benefit from sedating antidepressants. Low doses of sedating medications such as trazodone or Surmontil can be beneficial in combination with an antidepressant. Patients with a history of depression who suffer from an attack of acute insomnia may benefit from short-term sleep aids. Treating insomnia with a short sleep aid can lessen the chances of an at-risk patient developing a severe episode of clinical depression. However, powerful sleep aids are usually only prescribed for about two weeks because of the risk of dependency. But under a doctors’ care and guidance, these medications are incredibly useful and safe for stopping the debilitating symptoms and consequences of insomnia.
Are you or a loved one suffering from the symptoms of insomnia, and depression? It’s critical to get help quickly from an experienced doctor, sleep specialist, or mental health professional. Please contact Pulse TMS today to make an appointment for treating depression today.