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Depression and Sleep: Anxiety Nightmares

Updated on January 21, 2018
Person sleeping
Person sleeping | Source

Trouble sleeping?

Have you ever suffered from sleep deprivation or nightmares?

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Symptoms of Depression

The following is a list of the most common symptoms of depression. Keep in mind that depression effects everyone differently.

  1. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness
  2. Thoughts of death/suicide
  3. Loss of interest
  4. Concentration issues
  5. Forgetfulness
  6. Loss of libido
  7. Weight or appetite changes
  8. Daytime sleepiness
  9. Loss of energy
  10. Insomnia

Sleep Deprivation and Depression

There are many causes for sleep deprivation. Perhaps you suffer from a sleeping disorder, you're stressed out about school or work, you're sick or injured, or maybe your partner just snores too loud. Depression is yet another possible reason for sleep deprivation for many out there. It's a serious issue that can be treated with the right diagnoses and professional help. Funny thing is, some people with depression actually find themselves sleeping too much rather than not enough. However, this article focuses on those who continue to wake up tired, unrefreshed, and, on top of all their exhaustion, suffer from depression.

Depression is something that millions suffer from everyday. Although the cause is unknown, treatment is possible to help get it under control. Without that control, it can affect everything in your everyday life, from eating to sleeping. The relation of sleep and depression is pretty complex because depression may cause sleep disorders while sleep disorders may also cause depression. It all depends on which came first, people are either depressed and then begin to have problems sleeping, or they have trouble getting enough rest at night and then eventually become depressed.

According to a study about the link between insomnia and depression, people with insomnia are ten times more likely to have depression than those without. These people suffer from either sleep onset insomnia, which is when one has difficulty falling asleep, sleep maintenance insomnia, which is when one has difficulty staying asleep, unrefreshing sleep, or exhaustion during the day.

Another study shows that people obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are five times more likely to be depressed than those without it. The good news is that OSA patients that were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) found improvement with their OSA and their depression that was lasting.

Can't sleep
Can't sleep | Source

Nightmares and Anxiety

Nightmares are pretty common for children, especially little girls, and usually have to do with things like starting school or taking a trip. When we get older, our nightmares become more serious and deal with issues that may not be apparent in waking life. Sometimes they are caused by PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, sleeping disorders, or even depression and anxiety.

Nightmares are bad dreams that occur during the REM cycle of sleep and produce terror, fear, stress, and anxiety. They usually happen at the latter part of the night and wake up the dreamer suddenly. The dreamer also distinctly remembers it, which isn't always the case with more pleasant dreams.

While nightmares are usually seen as a normal reaction to stress or other everyday factors, they become a more serious issue when they are repeated often. Then, it becomes a disorder, affecting the sufferer's social, occupational, and other everyday functions as they are left exhausted and more stressed and depressed than they were before.

The way to help treat these nightmares is to get help with its cause. If you are suffering from a sleeping disorder, depression, high levels or stress, perhaps taking a new medication, or any other factor, getting that resolved may help. If left untreated, nightmares can become a chronic issue and more difficult to resolve. If you have suffered for at least three months, it's recommended that you see a professional for help.

Tips to Help You Get to Sleep:

  1. A couple of hours before you go to bed, write down whatever's bothering you and keeping you up. Then write down the next step you're going to take toward resolving each one.
  2. When you worry while trying to sleep, remind yourself that you have the problem in control and that going over it now will not help.
  3. Write down any new worries that come during the night so that you can deal with it tomorrow.
  4. If you still can't sleep, get up. Don't just toss and turn all night. Go do something relaxing like take a bath, make a milky drink, read, or listen to music before going back to bed when you feel tired.

How to Stop Worrying and Sleep:

  1. Don't try to fall asleep.
  2. Remind yourself that sleep will come and relaxing in bed is almost as good.
  3. Try to keep your eyes open, resisting when they begin to naturally close. This should help make sleep take over.
  4. Visualize a relaxing or pleasant scene to keep any unhelpful or unpleasant thoughts at bay.

Treating Sleep Deprivation and Nightmares

If you feel like your lack of sleep is the cause of your depression and you don't suffer from any sleeping disorder, the following tips may help you. They may also help cope with nightmares and anxiety as well:

  1. Get into a routine: Getting up at the same time every morning and going to bed when you're tired may help. Don't sleep during the day and don't try to go to bed early or you may find yourself sitting there thinking all night instead of dreaming. Also, continue to wake up at that set time no matter how much sleep you did or didn't get that night.
  2. Exercise: Working out during the day helps your body feel more tired at night so that you can fall asleep easier. It's not only a help for you physically, but it is also been known to help with depression as well. Just don't exercise two hours before you go to bed because exercise "activates" your body and you wouldn't be able to fall asleep.
  3. No scary movies before bed: Yes, I know I sound just like Mom but watching scary or violent films before going to bed may hinder your ability to fall asleep.
  4. No caffeine: Avoid tea, coffee, or soda a few hours before you go to bed. Caffeine is a stimulant and that's the complete opposite of what you want before you try to go to sleep. Try drinking herbal teas or milky drinks instead. They aren't caffeinated and milky drinks are known to be as good as sleeping pills for some people.
  5. Don't eat too much: Eating a heavy meal a couple of hours before it's time to go to bed makes it more difficult to fall asleep with a full stomach.
  6. No alcohol: Many people suffering from sleep deprivation and depression turn to alcohol to help them sleep, only to develop a problem with its use that only makes things worse. Yes, alcohol is a sedative but it doesn't give you a normal restful sleep. It also makes you pee a lot, which will disrupt your sleep.
  7. Make your room a restful place: Not having a radio, TV, or anything else to use for entertainment in your room helps make your room more of a haven for sleep. The only exception is books, since reading usually helps people sleep (just make sure they're lighthearted). Take out any stressful things too, such as homework or to-do lists for tomorrow. Make your bedroom warm and comfy with decorations that are relaxing. This ensures that you associate this space with sleep without any distractions.


© 2012 Lisa


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I keep having a dream that I run to a window and get my throat slit by a shadow figure is that bad?

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      7 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Sleep deprivation is a killer - litteraly. I am astounded at the many deadly diseases that can result from long term sleep deprivation.

      Great article.

    • shara63 profile image


      7 years ago from Delhi

      very useful information ...thanks for sharing!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      7 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      This is good information. My husband suffered from lack of sleep for a long time because of his work hours interrupting any normal sleeping habits. He actually had added health problems because of the lack of sleep bringing his immune system down. He changed shifts and got better. He still doesn't sleep like he should, but has improved a lot. He also had depression problems. Bad routines will cause sleep disorders. I wrote a hub about bad routines.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      7 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      Good advice. I just wrote a hub on the chemical reasons for sleep, and much of what you said here is supported by science. Well written! Voted Up, useful and interesting.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      7 years ago from Ireland

      I have no problem getting to sleep it is just staying asleep that is the problem. Somewhere between three and six am I am wide awake for about two hours then I am wrecked for the day. Reading does help a bit and I have gotten into a habit now of getting up and doing some writing so as not to waste my awake time with the same old thoughts buzzing around in my head. When I get a full nights sleep I am so happy to wake up and see it is morning. Insomnia is very common as is depression unfortunately. Voted for this and I this is an interesting and easy to read article. Look forward to more.


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