Sleep disturbances are any changes in sleeping habits or sleep patterns that have a negative impact on one’s health. Sleep disturbances affect approximately 10 to 35 percent of the population and can be an agonizing experience that has physical and physiological repercussions. Sleep disturbances can be due to a number of reasons, ranging from stress, to anxiety, to trauma, to something as serious as bipolar disorder and even depression.


Whatis depression?

All of us tend to feel sad and downtrodden in our experiences with people and surroundings at certain times. These feelings might feel amplified during trying times and difficult situations. However, when the feelings of sadness are persistent, along with lack of interest in any of one’s daily chores (even those that were once enjoyed), coupled with anxiety and a sense of hopelessness, then they point towards depression. Depression affects a major chunk of the population, and the growing number of people suffering from it is a cause of concern. This condition can have a tremendous impact on the way we function on a daily basis, such as the way we eat or work or even the way we sleep.


Depression and sleep disturbance

Sleep disturbances and depression share a very complex relationship. Disturbances in one’s sleep patterns can lead to depression; on the other hand, sleep disorders and problems with sleep can lead to depression. The onset of depression can display sleep problems in some cases while in other cases sleep disturbances can be one of the gradual symptoms pointing towards depression. In fact, the risk factors as well as biological features tend to overlap for both conditions, leading to a similar treatment strategy that is effective for both conditions at various times.


Types of sleep disorders and their connection with depression

  • Insomnia

Depressed individuals often complain of insomnia. In the same vein, statistics revealed that the chances of individuals developing depression is ten times greater in those suffering from insomnia compared to those who do not. Individuals who are depressed can suffer from sleep onset insomnia (which refers to the inability to fall asleep) or from sleep maintenance insomnia (which refers to the inability to remain asleep for long). Depressed individuals might also display daytime sleepiness symptoms or experience unrefreshing sleep.

On the other hand, those suffering from sleep onset insomnia or sleep maintenance insomnia are at risk of developing depression.


  • Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA

According to studies, depressed individuals were at five times greater risk of developing OSA or sleep disordered breathing. It has also been found that treating OSA and improvement in the condition can lead to improvement in depression as well, even displaying significant and lasting improvements.


Diagnosis and those at greater risk

Owing to the similarities in symptoms and risk factors and the complex relationship between the two, depression and sleep disturbances can often be misdiagnosed. A depressed mood could be an indication of insomnia whereas persistent insomnia (or even conditions like restless leg syndrome) could be an indication of depression.

Children with sleep disorders are at greater risk of developing depression, and with effects that are long lasting and severe.

The older population is at greater risk of developing depression because of the physical illnesses that they suffer, which can lead to disturbances in sleep and thus to depression. Women also suffer sleep disturbances after childbirth and during hormonal changes, which could lead to depression.


Sleep disturbance and depression thus share an interrelated relationship.