Why Does Depression Cause Insomnia – and How to Cure It!

stress related insomnia treatment

Depression and – Stress Insomnia Treatment.

If you suffer from depression, chances are, you also suffer from being sleep deprived. There’s a reason why this happens. There exists a link between depression and insomnia. In fact, insomnia is regarded as one of the key signs of depression.overcoming sleep insomnia problems

Our sleep is so vital because it provides us with our restorative time. Sleep disruption leaves you tensed, vigilant and irritable. Poor sleep leads to fatigue; fatigue leads to inactivity, forgetfulness and heightened emotional sensitivity which could then proceed into a vicious cycle of physical and mood-related symptoms.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average person gets just about 6.9 hours of sleep. Now you can only imagine how compounded things would be if depression were added to the mix.

Depression can leave you awake frequently throughout the night. And even when you are able to get a wink, you wake up again to see the grim face of 2 0’clock staring at you. And you’re still awake to watch its slow, seemingly tortuous journey till 6 0’clock.

In this article, we examine why depression causes insomnia, and how to cure it. Let’s get started.

How Stress Causes Depression

Like it or not, stress isn’t really bad for you. It is a normal physical and psychological reaction to the situation in your life. It keeps you alert, motivated and improves your performance.

Remember how responsive you were before your work deadline or when you participated in sports in high school? That was a moderate level of stress fueling you.

causes of stress and how to manage it
Yet, stress could cause depression in susceptible people. It is when your stress is with you more often than not and you find it difficult dealing with it that it becomes a problem. Stress can task the body’s stress response mechanism, hereby leading to depression.

How does this happen? Lets get scientific (well a bit.)

Stress leads to the disruption of our body’s chemical systems that regulate processes like appetite, sleep, sex drive, energy and expression of emotions. This disruption occurs in the form increased level of cortisol – the stress hormone – and reduced level of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, all of which have been linked to depression.

A major review of published research has revealed that chronic stress could lead to damages in the area of the brain responsible for thinking and emotional response which thus leads to depression.

Also, another study carried out with rats and humans revealed that prolonged stress could lead to the shrinking of the hippocampus – a vital part of the brain. This reduces the brain’s ability to stay healthy, which then provides a risk factor for depression.

Stress has both direct and indirect effects on our mood.

The direct effect causes cognitive change, irritability and sleeps disruption – the early symptoms of a lowered mood. And, the indirect effect of stress on our mood, for example, the disruption of the coping strategies – yoga, running, catching up with friends – that help keep your mind on track, leads to depression.

ways reduce stress anxiety

If you find it difficult dealing with stress, it can overwhelm you and weigh you down. Then you are constantly in and out of bad moods, your productivity decreases, relationships suffer, daily routines seem impossible to do, depression sets in, and sleep problem develops.

The Stress, Depression, and Insomnia Connection

A study published in the Journal of Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience revealed that around 75% of patients suffering from depression also have insomnia. The depressed subjects experience reduced sleep efficiency, an increased period of wakefulness and shortened rapid eye movement latency.

Stress puts your body in a heightened state, which fuels your depression. Your stress-fueled depression keeps your body from relaxing. You are unable to let your guard down and let go of the events of the day.

When you are stressed out your mind produces different anxious thoughts from your unresolved issues which keep you awake at night. When your zzzz time comes close, sadness, hopelessness and other related feelings cloud your thoughts and hijack your mind.

One thing about your mind is that it finds it hard differentiating between an imagined and a real event. So your body will put up a fight-or-flight response to your distressing thoughts as if it were actually occurring. Your body gets prepared to battle your incoming threat by pumping adrenaline round your body which will make your muscle tense and your heartbeat skyrocket. This burst of energy will keep you from falling asleep.

Even if you have a high sleep drive and bypass your anxious thoughts and get to sleep, chances are, you’d wake up a few times into the night. (Nocturnal arousal happens to everyone, though you might not remember having it).

Your suppressed anxious thoughts take advantage of your low sleep drive to occupy your mind and make their words heard. Therefore, you have a problem falling asleep.

If you continue to have problems falling asleep each night, you could develop ‘learned ‘insomnia. This is a condition where your body associates your bed with ‘thoughts time’ rather than ‘sleep time,’ which will then make it even harder falling asleep each night.

Also ridding yourself – or at least managing your depression first can help with your sleep problems. It’s hard to know sometimes what came first your depression or your stress/anxiety. Either way, sorting out either your depression or your stress initially can help with insomnia.

Stress Triggers to Look out for

Almost everyone has suffered from one form of stress or the other.

Avoiding stress-related events might be almost impossible, as these events crop up at one point or the other in one’s life.

The first step in conquering your stress inducers is to identify those situations that make you want to run for the hills.

what is a depression and insomnia


Just in case you didn’t get the memo: Exercise can help to cut down on stress and anxiety and also improve depressive symptoms.

Exercise helps your body release endorphins – the feel-good brain chemicals -which help to promote the nerve cell growth. This makes exercise to be as effective at relieving the symptoms of depression as medications.

Research has shown that BDNF, a compound that increases the production of new neurons and neuronal connectivity can be naturally increased by short bursts of vigorous exercise.

If you aren’t one for high-intensity workouts, evidence also shows that lifting walking, running and even housework can help with the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Healthy Eating

Depression can also be eased with a nutrient-dense diet that cuts down on inflammation and aids your nutrient level.

A well-balanced diet is important for both your physical and mental health as it will help you keep up your energy and minimize mood swing.

A lot of the fast and processed foods we consume today contains trans-fat. A study carried out has revealed that a diet high in trans fat can increase the risk of depression by 48%. You should incorporate more complex carbs than sugary foods to avoid an inevitable sugar crash.


Medications are sometimes prescribed by doctors to deal with depression. The most common of these medications are anti-depressants which help to adjust the brains neurotransmitters that cause depression. There are certain classes of anti-depressant based on the symptoms and family history of the patient. See a medical practitioner to get the right anti-depressant prescription for you.

From my own personal point of view and experience, I would never say don’t take medication as I am not qualified to give that sort of advice, but medication shouldnt be seen as a long term solution.

My belief is a mind body approach incorporating all the suggestions in the information on this site.

My only recommendation that some may think is medication of sorts, (but is not)  which can now be found in health food shops is – CBD Oil.  CBD oil results for aiding sleep and depression are really impressive – and it is not addictive or harmful.


Hypnotherapy can be used to identify the cause of your depressive disorder and encourage you to develop better coping strategies. Hypnotherapy can help connect to the subconscious mind and try to associate the cause of your depression with negative feelings to help you suppress it.

Relaxation techniques

When depressed, individuals tend to have a negative outlook on life. Relaxation techniques can help bring our anxious emotions and negative mood down a notch which will help release endorphins – the feel-good chemical.

Here are some relaxation techniques that can help relieve anxiety.

1. Breathing and the body.
Taking deep, slow breathes can help ease anxiety and make you relax from head to toe. You can combine your breathing exercise with meditation for even greater focus and stress relief.

Focus not on your sleeplessness but your body as an observer without judgement.

Stress is a natural occurance for all of us, but if we see it as a problem rather than a natural emotion and we do nothing more than notice rather than labelling it as something bad, it will slowly dissipate.

2. Aromatherapy
Surrounding yourself with pleasant scents and aroma can be very relaxing. You can easily achieve this relaxation technique by lighting a candle that has been scented with your favorite fragrance or using an essential oil diffuser.

3. Keep a Journal
You could try to scribble out your stress by keeping a diary or journal. If you feel the need to take something off your chest, then take a few moments to concerns, frustrations, and fear bothering you. Use the journal to keep a log of your sleep patterns and the negative conversations you have with yourselves.

4. Get Enough Sleep
Depression makes good quality sleep hard to get and being sleep deprived fuels our depression and can lead to insomnia as a result of stress and anxiety.

5. Learn Cognitive Behavior Therapy.                                                                                                     CBT is looking at the way we think and behave, getting you to reframe negative thinking behaviors and habits into positive thoughts. CBT is incredibly effective at eliminating depression and anxiety.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get up to 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. So aim for these numbers.

You could also try an essential oil diffuser and humidifier to help you sleep better. A diffuser/humidifier moistens the air to help you relax and lull you to sleep. Aromatherapy aromas that are diffused create a healthy environment and known to effect our moods, stress levels and emotions.

Or there are some great sleep apps that can help with sleep problems.





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  1. HI Thanks for this interesting article. I totally agree that a certain level of stress is crucial to our lives as it will enhance performance in certain situations.
    As someone who knows quite a few depression suffers I can see how stress can trigger depression in those who are already susceptible to it.
    I know when my mind is racing I can’t sleep so I can see how this is only exacerbated through additional stress and depression.
    Sometimes people who are depressed sleep a lot as they don’t want to face the world – is this a different kind of depression do you think? Or just a different human reaction?

    • I think sleeping a lot when having depression is a classic symptom of depression. It can happen that you are either sleeping a lot or with some sufferers, they just cannot get good quality asleep. I have suffered from depression and it has hit me both ways but depression is always at the route. Thanks for you helpful comments.

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