Can Depression Cause Insomnia ?

Sleeplessness and depression have an intertwined relationship that can sometimes be hard to figure out. Does depression cause insomnia? Does insomnia cause depression? The answer to both questions is yes. In many cases, the two difficulties combine together to create a snowball effects where it’s can be almost impossible to tell which came first!

Insomnia is generally known to be a lack of sleep, but understanding which type of insomnia you have may help with treating it. The two types, acute insomnia and chronic insomnia, are distinctive simply due to the amount of time a person has it. If a person experiences sleeplessness or poor quality sleep for at least three nights a week for more than three consecutive weeks, that is considered to be chronic insomnia. Anything less than this is considered to be acute insomnia.

Does Depression Cause Insomnia?

More than ¾ of people who have major depressive disorder also report that they have sleep disturbances or insomnia. When disorders such as depression cause chronic insomnia, the healthy functions of both the body and the mind begin to break down even more rapidly. One of the key signs of determining if a person has clinical depression is sleep disturbance, which may be either the inability to sleep or getting too much sleep.

Insomnia is often a secondary condition, meaning that it is caused by some other type of disorder. This may be a medical condition, situation or environment circumstances (for instance, shift work), or psychological cause such as anxiety or depression. The cause of insomnia may also be a combination of these factors which can make it challenging to understand the cause in order to determine the best form of treatment.

How to Help Insomnia and Depression

As many mental health issues are, depression and insomnia can become a slippery slope. The first step toward healing is to be sure to ask for help. Your medical doctor is a good place to start in order to determine if depression is the cause of your insomnia and how to move forward. Treatment for depression may include antidepressant medication, counseling, or cognitive behavioral therapy.

Sometimes the treatment for depression can take a bit of time to come up with the best options and to regain balance. While in the process of healing from depression, it can be difficult to continue losing sleep. Plus, insomnia can make it more difficult to heal from depression as it directly impacts a person’s mental health.

Instead of simply waiting around to get better from depression, you have the option to make certain lifestyle changes to help improve your sleeping patterns and promote healing on your own. Creating healthy habits and sleep hygiene can change everything when it comes to insomnia and other sleep disturbances.

Creating New Habits to Help With Insomnia and Depression

Medication is almost never prescribed for chronic insomnia, particularly when related to depression. For short term sleeplessness, a doctor may offer a sleeping pill or relaxing medicine, but these can often be very addictive and may also get in the way of certain medications that are used for depression. In most cases, it’s best to treat depression related insomnia with natural options rather than restoring to the pharmacy.

Although inconvenient at times, creating new habits is one of the most significant ways insomnia can be battled naturally. Creating habits when your brain is struggling just to get by can be a challenge, but it can be done. Starting small, making a plan, and following through are critical actions when it comes to changing lifestyle habits. Although you may not succeed with flying colors from the beginning, just do your best and don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t get it perfectly all the time.

Sleeping Habits to Reduce Insomnia

If you’re already doing some of these things, then that’s great! Establishing good sleep habits is very personal and can take some time to determine what works best for you. These suggestions might help to get you started:

Bedtime Routine. Creating new bedtime habits helps remind your body and brain that it’s time to sleep. Starting about an hour or more before bedtime, prepare yourself for sleep. Turn down lamps. Turn off electronic devices such as television, computer or smartphone. Take a warm bath. Diffuse lavender essential oil. Drink a cup of chamomile tea. Read a semi-boring book. Do things that help you to slow down and relax.

Circadian Rhythm. Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning helps your body re-establish the rhythms it needs to be able to sleep well. When you wake up in the morning, get out of bed right away. Even if you don’t have to go to work or anywhere else, getting out of bed programs your brain that it’s time to be awake. Going to bed at the same time each night (even on the weekend!) does the same thing.

Avoid Certain Substances. Caffeine is often used by people with insomnia and depression in order to get through the day. But caffeine can also mess with your ability to sleep at night, as well as inducing energy boost and then crash that can leave you more exhausted than you were before. Nicotine and alcohol are also substances that can inhibit sleep. Many people have an alcoholic drink in the evening because it makes them feel sleepy at first, which might be seen as helpful. But while alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it can become disruptive to your deep sleep cycles and actually inhibit sleep while making insomnia worse.

Light Therapy Box. Used particularly in relation to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), light therapy boxes can help people who have seasonal depression that affects them during the winter months. Light therapy used in the morning can help reset circadian rhythms while triggering the release of serotonin. This “happy” substance eventually is used to make melatonin in the evening, which is responsible for helping you to fall asleep. Ask your doctor if this type of treatment might be effective for you.

Healthy Lifestyle. In regaining balance for depression and insomnia, exercise and eating healthy are critical. Make sure you’re getting enough nutrients through your food, consuming healthy vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Ask your doctor about any vitamin supplements you should be taking.

Exercise acts as a help for both depression and insomnia. Getting enough exercise and staying active helps to combat depression by releasing serotonin and dopamine which create feelings of happiness in the brain. In addition, exercise helps to tire out your body during the day so that you are ready to sleep at night.


Getting to sleep and staying asleep at night can be a stressful part of life, especially if you also struggle with depression. As a symptom of depression, insomnia may be telling you that you need to get help for your depression, and you should absolutely do so. Applying new habits to your life to help can help you to get back on track and start enjoying your life and sleeping like a baby once again!

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