All posts

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Depression?

Losing out on sleep every once in a while isn’t a great feeling, and can cause you to feel pretty groggy the next day. However, if you’re consistently missing sleep, the effects can add up and lead to serious health consequences. Consequences such as fatigue, decreased cognitive ability, increased stress and even depression. In this blog, we’ll be talking about the connection between sleep problems and depression. Read on to learn more about the relationship between these two conditions and how you can manage them to have a happier, healthier life.

Understanding the Link Between Sleep and Depression

Sleep is a complex biological need that we still don’t fully understand. So, the link between sleep and depression is a complicated one, but there may be a strong association between the two. Studies have shown that individuals with chronic sleep problems have a higher likelihood of developing depression. The relationship also goes both ways, as those who are depressed may have a harder time falling asleep or staying asleep compared to individuals without the condition. This is described as a bidirectional relationship, and it can sometimes be hard to know which came first — the depression or the sleep issues. Sleep Foundation says that doctors may hesitate to diagnose depression if sleep issues aren’t one of the patient's symptoms. 

With that being said, everyone has unique circumstances and those with depression may not experience sleep issues. On the same token, those with sleep issues may not be depressed. Talking to a primary care provider is a great first step for determining the root cause of your sleep issues or your depression. Because these two conditions are so strongly linked, it’s important to talk to someone when you experience any symptoms of depression or sleep disorders so you can start the path to proper treatment.

How Sleep Influences Mental Health

Sleep is an essential function for living our everyday lives. While sleep is undoubtedly important for our physical health, it’s equally important for our mental health as well. Sleep allows our brains to process information, regulate information and restore itself for optimal health. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains and bodies are unable to function at peak efficiency. Furthermore, consistently missing out on sleep can have a negative impact on mental health.

Sleep deprivation can affect our mood, cognition and our overall mental well-being. Over time, this can lead to negative thinking, irritability and issues regulating mood and emotions. This may also lead to increased stress, throwing the chemical balance in our brain out of order. Of course, this also means that lack of sleep can worsen already existing mental health conditions.

In short, sleep is absolutely vital to our mental health. Like eating and drinking, sleep is an essential function that everyone needs. Being malnourished or dehydrated can cause significant negative health consequences, so it only makes sense that sleep deprivation can result in similar circumstances.

Getting enough sleep can improve our overall mental well-being, enhance mood, boost cognitive function and even reduce the symptoms of mood disorders like anxiety or depression. If you are suffering from depression, you should make sure to prioritize good sleep hygiene as part of your treatment regimen. In the next section, we’ll provide some tips for improving sleep and managing depression.

Tips for Managing Sleep Issues and Depression

Managing sleep issues and depression can be challenging, but there are strategies you can implement to improve both your sleep quality and depression symptoms. It’s best to discuss treatment with a qualified health care professional, but here are some general tips for depression to help you get started:

  • Talk with a therapist — Therapy is a commonly recommended part of any depression treatment plan. Talking to a therapist can help you work through some of the depressive thoughts you have. A therapist can also give you the tools to understand these thoughts and redirect them more positively.
  • Meditate — Meditation is a great way to deal with both sleep issues and depression. When you meditate, you can relax and clear your mind. This allows you to deal with some of the intrusive thoughts that may happen as a result of depression and it helps your body calm down before sleep.
  • Try journaling — Journaling your thoughts can help clear your mind and address some of the worries you’re having. Sometimes simply getting these worries out of your head and on paper can help you feel better. 
  • Get some outdoor time — Getting some sun and some outdoor time can benefit both your sleep cycle and your depression symptoms. Being in nature and getting enough light can improve mood and help set your circadian rhythm, allowing you to get better sleep at night.
  • Avoid stimulants and sedatives — Other than any prescription medications your doctor has recommended, it’s best to try and limit or avoid nicotine, alcohol and other substances that can disrupt your sleep. These substances can also negatively affect your mood, which may worsen your depression. Instead, consider opting for a calming herbal tea.
  • Engage in regular physical activity — Exercise has numerous mental and physical health benefits. Not only will daily exercise help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, but it can also help regulate your mood.
  • Self-care — Remember to take care of yourself when you’re dealing with sleep issues and depression. Treating yourself with kindness and doing activities you find relaxing can help with your depression and help you sleep better at night.

Remember, managing sleep issues and depression is a process, and what works for one person may not work for another. Be patient with yourself, and don't hesitate to seek help when needed.

It’s worth noting that several of the above tips are best practices for good sleep hygiene, which is something you should prioritize if you’re having sleep troubles. But what is sleep hygiene?

What Is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene is a set of habits and practices that promote better sleep. Sleep hygiene can help to optimize your sleep quality and in turn, improve other areas of your life.

There are quite a few different habits to follow if you want to practice good sleep hygiene. When you’re just getting started, it can help to keep a list of these habits or download a habit-tracking app to help remind you of the lifestyle changes you’re trying to incorporate into your life.

With that being said, let’s dive deeper into the lifestyle changes needed for good sleep hygiene and how you can add them to your daily life.

Lifestyle Changes for Improved Sleep and Mood

Improving your sleep habits and making lifestyle changes with a sleep hygiene routine can significantly impact the quality of your sleep and your mood. Here are some of the best practices for sleep hygiene that you can start following in your daily life:

  • Create a sleep-friendly environment — First, you want to ensure that you have a sleeping environment that promotes uninterrupted, restful sleep. This means your bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet. You can achieve this effect with blackout curtains, eye masks, white noise machines, earplugs or anything else that helps to make your room darker and quieter. You should also set your thermostat to a lower temperature, as you can stay asleep more easily in these conditions. If you don't have A/C, consider a fan to keep the air cooler.
  • Eat a balanced diet — Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help you get more sleep. It can also be helpful to avoid huge meals close to bedtime, as it may be harder to sleep if your body is working hard to digest that food. As mentioned, limiting alcohol and caffeine, especially close to bedtime, can also help you have a more restful night.
  • Stick to a sleep schedule — Attuning your body to a regular sleep schedule can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help to regulate your circadian rhythm and get better quality sleep.
  • Create a bedtime routine — Develop a relaxing routine before bed to signal to your body that it's time to wind down. This could include activities such as reading, taking a warm bath or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

Limit exposure to electronic devices — Try to avoid using your phone, computer or tablet close to bedtime. At the very least, make sure to set them to night mode to limit your exposure to blue light before going to sleep. Consider trying a more relaxing activity like reading.

Connect with a doctor or online provider

If you’re experiencing issues with your sleep, depression or both, it’s important to connect with a health care professional. A health care provider can guide you with the support you need to manage your conditions. They’ll be able to develop a treatment plan that works with your lifestyle and monitor the progress of your condition, adjusting your treatment as needed. They can also help by referring you to specialists, like a sleep specialist or a therapist if needed.

Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to connect with a primary care provider. Clinics like Circle Medical provide full-stack primary care, so you can receive care in person or from the comfort of your own home. If you’re struggling with sleep or mental health, it’s time to start your journey to a happier, healthier life.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today!

Circle Medical is a full-stack primary care clinic that offers both in-person care and telehealth services for your convenience. If you’d like to get started with your care as soon as possible, you can make same-day telehealth appointments to meet with a health care professional today! Book your appointment to get started.

See a doctor over video about sleep today.
View Availabilities

350+ Primary Care Providers.
100% Confidence.

No matter which Provider you choose, you will be seen by a clinician who cares deeply about your health and wants to help you live your happiest, healthiest life.

Circle Medical Providers are held to an exceptionally high standard of compassionate, evidence-based care.

Book Appointment

Circle Medical Providers must meet all of the following standards:

Exceptionally qualified in their field


Deeply empathetic for patients

Follows evidence-based care guidelines

Embracing of diverse patient backgrounds

Impeccable record of previous care