Nighttime Depression

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Swirling thoughts. Worries. Confused thinking. Emotional pain. Depression has all of these.

Now, imagine experiencing all of this in the dark.

Nighttime depression can be the hardest depression to beat. It keeps us awake, sapping our strength, making each day harder to get through. The distractions of the day all vanish, leaving us lying awake in the dark, pondering our pain. Being unable to fall asleep to escape your thoughts is one of the cruelest manifestations of depression.

Depression and sleep problems are related. Where one exists, the other is also likely to be present.

Insomnia

There are several forms of insomnia:

Sleep Onset Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep.

Sleep Maintenance Insomnia is difficulty staying asleep.

Mixed Insomnia combines the other two forms.

Hypersomnia is excessive sleepiness, generally daytime.

All of these types of insomnia are related to a significantly increased risk of depression.In fact, a 2005 study conducted by the University of North Texas, Dept. of Psychology showed that those individuals who experienced insomnia were ten times as likely to suffer from clinically significant depression and seventeen times as likely to suffer from anxiety as those who did not experience insomnia.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the muscles of the throat, due to age or fatty tissue, weaken, causing them to collapse during sleep. Each time that happens breathing is disrupted. If the lack of oxygen continues long enough, the brain wakes, so that normal breathing can resume.

Those who suffer extreme forms of this disorder may wake up hundreds of times each night, for only a few seconds each time. When this happens, sleep levels are disrupted or not achieved, and the brain does not rest.

A European study showed that people with depression were more than five times more likely to suffer from sleep-disordered breathing. Another study showed that treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine has been shown to improve not only sleep deficits, but also showed a significant and lasting improvement in depression symptoms.

Treatment

Both Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) and pharmacological treatments are commonly used to treat depression. Both may also be successfully used to treat insomnia.

There are other techniques or habits that insomniacs may use to try to regain control over their sleep patterns. These may include:

Going to bed and rising at the same time each day;

Getting a dose of sunlight soon after waking each day;

Not sitting in a dark room looking at a lit electronic screen for the last hour before bedtime. These screens may include televisions, tablets, readers, phones or computers;

Limiting caffeine intake;

Getting at least some exercise each day;

Avoiding daytime naps.

Don’t hesitate to speak with your physician about this. There are some physical explanations for sleeplessness that could be ruled out.

There is no need to lie awake and suffer. Seek help and look forward to a rested mind from that first good night’s sleep.

Sources: Sleep Foundation and National Institutes of Health /Medical Library

 
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