Sleep problems and depression go hand in hand. Sleep problems may be a sign of depression and people with depression commonly have sleep problems. In fact, changes in sleep patterns - difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, sleeping less or more nearly every day - is one of the symptoms used by doctors to diagnose depression. These changes in the quality and quantity of sleep often make it more difficult to deal with the symptoms of depression.
But with depression and sleep so closely linked, the question becomes "Which do you treat first – the depression or the sleep problem?" In most instances, the focus should first and foremost be on treating the depression. That said, short-term measures to improve sleep may make it easier to cope with the symptoms of depression.
Medications used to treat depression may cause changes to sleep, which can affect depression symptoms. Antidepressants may actually do double-duty, improving sleep and reducing depression symptoms. But occasionally, depression medications can disrupt sleep with night-time waking, vivid dreams, and even nightmares. Some medications also aggravate sleep problems, including restless legs syndrome, periodic leg movements, and teeth grinding (sleep bruxism).
If you are having problems sleeping or have noticed changes in your sleep patterns, speak to your doctor. It is important to rule out or treat any underlying condition, whether it is depression, a physical illness, or some other cause. For more information about depression, see our depression health centre.
Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team