Depression and Chronic Sleep Deprivation Could be Tied Together

Julie Shenkman
Posted by

More than 14 million adults in the U.S. are affected by major depression disorder, and even more adults experience depression symptoms periodically, according to statistics from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. With numerous factors leading to symptoms of depression, including lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and chemical imbalance, it can be difficult to help patients pinpoint depression triggers. Understanding and addressing these causes is an important part of treatment.

A recent study from researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School indicates that lack of sleep might have links to depression, particularly for women. The study included 171 female college students of various backgrounds and health statuses. Over the course of two weeks, each participant tracked the amount of sleep she got at night and the quality of that sleep. Researchers also asked the women about their mental and emotional states. Findings from the study indicated that women who averaged lower numbers of nightly sleep hours often reported symptoms associated with depression or anxiety.

Medical staff working with patients who report symptoms of depression usually do ask about sleep, but lack of sleep doesn't have to be immediately noticeable to lead to depression. Research conclusions from the University of Michigan study noted that someone who simply has a difficult time falling asleep or who wakes up a few times at night due to health reasons or children's needs could see an impact from lack of sleep. The relationship between sleep and depression is also complex. Some women in the study reported trouble falling asleep because of anxiety or depression symptoms, and the resulting poor sleep only compounded issues the next day.

While health care professionals know not every case of depression is treatable through lifestyle changes, it's often the case that symptoms of depression are a sign that something else is wrong. Lack of sleep might be at fault, but clinicians should also consider other life habits. Moderate physical exercise several times each week can reduce the chance someone will experience depression or anxiety, as can a balanced diet that includes less sugar and more essential vitamins and minerals. The body works as a unit and requires balance; in many cases, addressing issues of diet, exercise or stress helps a person sleep better, which in turn reduces depression that can lead to issues with eating or activity. Even if individuals with symptoms of anxiety or depression don't remedy them with lifestyle changes, working toward healthier habits helps patients and physicians rule out these factors and usually has positive impacts in other areas of life.

Medical staff working with patients to bolster good habits to address depression should always caution patients against overdoing any treatment. Addressing a lack of sleep might lead to less depression, but too much sleep can cause depression the next day, according to the University of Michigan study. Overdoing exercise or diet restrictions can also lead to additional symptoms or health problems.

Photo courtesy of photostock at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch