How does depression affect sleep?


Insomnia is frequently a problem for veterans with depression. Insomnia is so commonly associated with depression that it is considered one of the major signs of the disorder. At least 80% of depressed patients report difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep through the night. At the other extreme, 15% of depressed people sleep too much. Sleep disorders can result in decreased effectiveness of treatments for depression. Insomnia can have a domino effect because it can lead to an increase in depressive episodes over the lifetime of the veteran. The relationship of poor sleep to depression is similar to that of high cholesterol to heart disease. Veterans with insomnia who do not yet have depression may want to seek treatment to prevent the possibility of developing depression.

Dr. John Preston, PsyD
Psychology Specialist

Disordered sleep is extremely common in people with depression. Insomnia is especially common, particularly waking frequently throughout the night and waking early in the morning and being unable to return to sleep. Even if they do manage to sleep through the night, people with depression may also have poor quality sleep. This means that you don’t get enough deep, restful sleep, which can result in fatigue during the day, forgetfulness, an inability to concentrate and heightened emotional sensitivity, such as being more easily frustrated and overwhelmed.

Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse

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Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse

When you have depression, it can feel like there's no way out. To begin changing the way you feel, you'll need an arsenal of proven techniques for lifting your mood and preventing relapse. The...
Dr. Michael Breus, PhD
Psychology Specialist


Symptoms of depression and anxiety are common among teens with sleep problems.

  • 73% of teens who reported having difficulty with sleep also reported feelings of sadness, unhappiness and depression
  • 58% reported excessive worrying
  • 56% reported feelings of stress and anxiousness
Lauri Loewenberg
Psychology Specialist

Depression has been shown, in many studies, that the length of time spent in REM is shorter in clinically depressed individuals. You can learn more about it here: 

If you suffer from depression, you should know that your dreams can warn you that another bout is on it's way. I know this from my own experience as well as my own research. You want to look for dreams of rain, flooding, more shades of grey and less color, mud and dirt, falling, as well as dark shadowy creatures that seem to be lurking just under the surface of any water in your dreams. Also, if the color blue begins to stand out in your dreams this too can point to depression, the blues, so to speak.

These are the more commonly experienced symbols of depression. You may have your own symbols that are personal to you. Start keeping track of your dreams along with your days and you will begin to notice your own personal patterns and symbols that are letting you know a depression is on the way. This will allow you to prepared so you can make sure you surround yourself with people that are positive and that make you laugh, or you can go see a good comedy, etc. so that you can combat that nasty depression and keep yourself in good spirits.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Researchers have found that depression may shorten the time you spend in the stage of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It is during REM sleep that dreaming occurs. Sleeping troubles can be common with depression.

Dr. Tarique D. Perera, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Insomnia can accompany depression, but practicing good sleep hygiene helps encourage deeper sleep and may help insomnia, says Tarique Perera, MD, a psychiatrist with Contemporary Care of Connecticut. In this video, he offers sleep tips.

Major depression goes hand in hand with sleep troubles like insomnia. The less you sleep, the more things bother you and the harder it is to get a good night's sleep. It's a vicious cycle that stresses your body and jeopardizes the success of your treatment plan. The systems in your body that control hormones and brain waves depend on a smoothly running body clock to keep you balanced, so restoring healthy sleep patterns is essential for your mental and physical health. Getting on a regular bedtime schedule will help reset your internal clock so your body knows when to sleep and when to wake. Set aside 30 minutes before bed to finish the day’s must-dos (10 minutes), do hygiene things (10 minutes), and wind down with some deep breathing or meditation (10 minutes).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.