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How Sleep Affects Your Depression Risk

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Did you ever wonder if how your sleep affects your quality of life? Healthy sleep is a restorative state that’s necessary for your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Most experts agree that adults need seven to nine hours of nightly sleep. Getting too much or not enough can lead to depression symptoms and may be a precursor for a depression diagnosis. Learn the risks of irregular sleep durations and how your habits and medications can help you avoid associated health problems.

Sleep Study Findings

A sleep study of 1,788 adult twins suggests that sleep durations above and below the normal range increase the genetic risk for depressive symptoms. Sleep Range       Nightly Duration              Depression Heritability Risk Normal                 7 to 8.9 hours                         27% Long                      10 hours                              49% Short                      5 hours                               53% The heritability of depressive symptoms in twins with short sleep durations was nearly twice that of those sleeping in the normal range. Long and short sleep nights appear to activate genes related to depressive symptoms.

Health Risks for Too Much Sleep

Hypersomnia, or oversleeping, is a medical disorder that may cause the following symptoms in addition to depression:
  • Oversleeping at night can cause sleepiness the next day, and napping doesn’t usually help.
  • An almost constant need for sleep may cause low energy, anxiety and memory problems.
  • Other medical conditions linked to oversleeping include diabetes, obesity, headaches, back pain and heart disease.

Health Risks for Not Enough Sleep

A lack of sleep can do more than make you grumpy and foggy, such as:
  • Drowsiness can cause loss of self-control and accidents.
  • Insufficient sleep impairs alertness, attention, concentration, reasoning and problem-solving skills, making learning and remembering more difficult.
  • Lack of sleep can ruin your sex drive.
  • Other medical problems linked to insufficient sleep include heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, diabetes, suppressed immune system, psychosis, pain, dizziness and nausea.
Sleep Hygiene Solutions
Research shows that sleep hygiene, namely anything that promotes regular sleep, may dramatically affect depressive symptoms and their heritability. Try these helpful sleep duration, routine and environment management tips.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime.
  • Establish a wake-up routine. Set your alarm to wake you at the same time each morning after seven to nine hours of sleep. Let in as much natural light as possible. When your body’s natural rhythm realizes morning has come, it stops the melatonin hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping. Use TVs, computers, books and other distractions in other rooms.
  • Select evening food and drinks carefully. Enjoy a healthy dinner. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Ban late-night food: Avoid eating heavy meals before bedtime.
  • Engage in physical activity. Exercise or walk before bedtime.
  • Pamper yourself. Indulge in a warm tub with bath salts, a massage or stomach rub, a hot water bottle or listen to soothing music or chants.
  • Meditate. Achieve a calm, restful bedtime state through meditation.
  • Sip yourself to sleep. Drink warm milk or relaxing chamomile tea.
  • Create an inviting sleep environment: Sleep in a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet and relaxing environment with a moderate temperature.
  • Be monotonous. Count sheep or chant the alphabet backward until boredom puts you to sleep.
Depression Symptoms and Treatments
Sleep has been found to have a major effect on mood. Like most people, you probably experience short periods of time when your mood dips, and these may be associated with how you slept during the previous nights. However, if feelings of sadness persist and interfere with your daily life — or if you experience prolonged irregularities in your sleep pattern — you may have a form of depression. Compare the symptoms and treatments of two types below.sleep2 1.       Minor Depression
  • Problem: Symptoms lasting two weeks or longer don’t meet major depression criteria. If left untreated, you’re at high risk for developing major depression.
  • Solution: Antidepressants as sleep aids. Low doses of antidepressant medications may facilitate sleep. The most common sedating yet non-addictive prescriptions include Trazodone (Desyrel), Amitriptyline (Elavil) and Doxepin (Sinequan). 
2.    Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Problem:  Disabling symptoms prevent normal functioning while working, eating, pursuing hobbies and sleeping. Symptoms include feeling sad and empty, loss of energy, disinterest in activities you used to enjoy, focusing and decision-making problems, feeling worthless or guilty, sleep or eating pattern changes and thoughts of death or suicide. While some people experience a single episode in their lifetime, multiple occurrences are more typical.
  • Solution:  Combine Abilify with an antidepressant. Adding Abilify (Aripiprazole), which acts on certain brain chemicals, may improve severe depression symptoms more than an antidepressant alone. 
Whenever you experience sleeping problems, try some sleep hygiene solutions. If those don’t help, however, see your doctor. Work together to overcome your irregular nights so they don’t cause depression.

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