Sleep, or a lack of it, is proven to be linked to clinical depression.
Insomnia is extremely common in the US and affects one out of every three adults at some point in their life. It is more common in older adults (usually due to chronic physical illness) and women (who experience significant hormonal changes throughout their lives). Insomnia is often a key characteristic in diagnosing depression. The inability to get to sleep or to maintain sleep throughout the night is thought to be a key contributing factor to the onset of depression.
When you are sad or feel hopeless because of a personal situation, these feelings can sometimes interfere with sleep as those thoughts spin around your head at a thousand miles an hour. Those feelings can be so overwhelming and persistent that you cannot fall asleep or stay asleep. Sleep is a restorative state where your body and mind recharge from the events of the day. If that state is interrupted, you will feel fatigued, which leads to a lack of exercise and declining fitness level. This can cause a vicious cycle of inactivity and sleeplessness.
HERE’S HOW MANY HOURS OF SLEEP YOU NEED TO AVOID DEPRESSION
Lack of sleep can also be brought on by things like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which interferes with sleep and prevents the person from experiencing restorative sleep. OSA interferes with the person’s airway and reduces the supply of oxygen to the body. This causes the person to wake up often during the night. OSA has been linked to the onset of depression, and, on the other hand, people with depression are five times more likely to have OSA symptoms.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression triggered when the days begin getting shorter during the fall season. Shorter days means less sunlight, and that can have an adverse effect on a person’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a biological process that keeps us on a regular sleep/wake schedule. When that rhythm is disrupted, it can cause insomnia and other sleep disorders, which could contribute to depression. For most people with SAD, the symptoms of depression are eliminated with the onset of springtime and more sunshine.
Lack of sleep or the interruption of sleep can lead to depression or contribute to a depressive state lasting longer.
So what are some things we can do before bedtime to increase the chance of falling asleep and decrease the chances of waking up during the night?
If you suffer from OSA, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can increase airflow to your lungs and prevent you from waking up during the night due to your airways being compromised.
Meditation or listening to soft music before bed can lead to an increase in relaxation and a focusing of your mind to pleasant or emotionally neutral topics.
Make a list of things you need to do the next day to help soothe your mind and prevent it from obsessing over your to-do list.
When you write things down, your mind tends to let go of those concerns and forget about them, thus helping you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Exercise can help work out tension and relieve stress, as well as getting you fatigued. Making sure you are tired at the end of the day can help you to get to sleep, and the endorphins released during exercise can stimulate your mood and lift your depression. Just limit exercise to no later than a few hours before bed.
Yoga and deep abdominal breathing can lead to states of relaxation that will help you to get to sleep easier.
Limit the use of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine before you go to bed.
These can act as stimulants and keep you from falling asleep easily.
Related article: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Lower Stress and Improve Your Mood
Keep your bedroom temperature cool and take a warm shower right before bed so that your body will relax deeply as it cools.
The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to feel rested and prevent the symptoms of depression. Too little and you feel fatigued and irritable, and too much can lead to negative feelings and a deeper, longer lasting depressive state. Take care of your body, limit stimulating activities and foods right before bed time, use techniques like meditation, yoga and deep breathing to relax and make sure your bedroom is set up to promote sleeping.
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