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With the onset of a worldwide pandemic, our schedules have likely changed. Not only are some of us clad in pajamas all day, but we also have more down time at home and often experience heightened levels of stress.

Although some of these changes in sleep patterns may simply be a way of adapting to new circumstances, they may also be a response to (or a sign of) something bigger going on. Fluctuation in sleep, such as insomnia or excessive sleep patterns, are some of the most common symptoms of depression.

Depression and sleep are closely connected, and according to the Sleep Foundation, they have a “bidirectional relationship.” This means that bad sleep makes depression worse; similarly, depressive symptoms can make sleep habits worse. Depression and sleep respectively contribute to the quality of the other.

What causes depression?

Considering the strong correlation between sleep and depression, can lack of sleep cause depression? Or can sleeping too much cause depression? The short answer is no. There is no one single reason for the onset of clinical depression. A variety of factors including genetics, experiences of trauma, presence of other conditions and so on all contribute to a diagnosis of depression. Though sleep issues do not cause depression on their own, they may contribute to the onset or severity of depression when other factors are present.

Learning about depression and what it looks like in our daily life can help us to learn how to manage its negative impact.

What happens during sleep?

Sleep is your body’s way of resetting itself and preparing for the next day. According to the Sleep Foundation, nearly every organ and process in the body is affected by sleep. Our breathing, blood circulation, muscles, hormone levels and brain activity are all doing important work while we’re unconscious. 

For example, cortisol (the chemical that helps to regulate stress) is produced while you’re sleeping. Imagine what happens when you’re chronically tired and your stress response is dulled. What you do with a third of your day – while sleeping – really does matter for your mental health.

Poor sleep patterns can be categorized into two groups: sleeping too much and sleeping too little, respectively called insomnia and hypersomnia. Both can contribute to depression, and even show up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders under the criteria for a depression diagnosis. If you’re having trouble sleeping, there’s no doubt that the impact on your brain and body is significant. 

If you’re looking to alleviate depressive symptoms through better sleep, check out these quick tips and facts to help you achieve better sleep and manage your depression.

  1. Set a routine: Falling asleep and waking up at around the same time every day is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Getting healthy sleep means getting regular sleep.
  2. Exercise: Focusing on fitness has dozens of benefits. Working out during the day makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Researchers at the National Center for Biotechnical Information found that exercise is such an effective treatment for depression that it works as well as some antidepressant medications.
  3. Get some sun: Here’s a two-for-one tip. Research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that exposure to sunlight in the morning increased sleep quality, and reduced depression. 
  4. Get seven hours of sleep: Getting a balanced amount of sleep looks different for each person, but on average it means seven or more hours per night for an adult, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Try this: set an alarm for when you should go to bed and wake up.
  5. Put your phone away: When you’re having a hard time falling asleep, don’t reach for your phone. The harsh bluelight can keep you up by reducing melatonin, your body’s natural sleep chemical, making it harder to fall asleep and wake up the next morning. 

When to get help

You can change your sleep patterns overnight, literally. Depression, on the other hand, takes time to change, and will probably require multiple methods of personalized treatment. Everyone should take care to build a healthy sleep routine, but we can’t guarantee it will cure depression.

If you’re wondering if your sleeping all day is causing depression, it’s time to reach out for help. A mental health professional can help you to address underlying issues and start an effective treatment plan. If you face depression and sleep problems are one of your symptoms, your treatment will be more effective with a provider on your team.

You can find the help you need at Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare. We offer treatment to adults and adolescents for a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, bipolar, ADHD and more. Get help now for your mental well-being by reaching out online or calling (678) 274-4936.

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