Sleep and depression – so what?

Sleep and depression – So what?


We try all sorts of ways to get a good night's sleep.


Well, often when people are suffering from persistent feelings of sadness and anxiety their sleep is affected. It can make it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep, or both. Sometimes the quality of the sleep just feels poor. This in turn affects how people feel, and thus a vicious circle ensues.


Depression can cause insomnia sleep problems; just as insomnia sleep problems can cause depression. But does it matter which one came first?


What we do know is that when we treat depression alone, often the insomnia sleep problems don’t go away and this then increases the chances of depression coming back, regardless of which came first. So what to do? Research shows that treating insomnia with the long term scientifically effective CBTI (Cognitive behavioural therapy for Insomnia) not only treats insomnia for good, but it starts to work on depression too. Not only this, but it reduces the chances of either conditions coming back considerably. Depression is just one example of this. Research has also shown that CBTI has a positive affect on chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. So why are we not seeing more sleep therapy?


Unfortunately as its common for sleep problems to be seen as a symptom of these other conditions, it is harder to get them treated. In the Sleepyhead Clinic we see psychologists, mental health practitioners, and other medical professionals struggling to treat their patient fully because the treatment plans were not treating sleep issues. Fortunately, we have seen fantastic progress by treating these patients with CBTI – one client who had suffered from depression tells us her story:


“I didn’t realize how much my sleep was affecting my depression – I would repeat treatment programs over and over again, and just as I thought I was getting better, I would go right back down again. “


“It was affecting my husband, my children, my work- my whole life. I felt like a failure because no matter how proactive I was, I couldn’t fix the problems and I can’t even describe how awful it felt not to feel rested and refreshed in the mornings – I had forgotten what it felt like, nobody understood, no one had any answers I hadn’t already tried. “


“I don’t know how much money we have spent trying to ‘fix’ me. I found Stephanie from the Sleepyhead Clinic and really only gave it a go as I was so desperate. I met the criteria for insomnia, but thought there was nothing to be done because it was caused by my depression. I wish I had followed the program sooner! Stephanie taught me how to look after my sleep- it was fascinating. But the best part was I suddenly started feeling refreshed when I woke up, and I wasn’t waking up in the night anymore.”


“Suddenly I wasn’t so anxious, there was no weight on my shoulders and the depression became easier to manage. Everything I had learnt even before the sleep program in my depression programs started to work – something I wasn’t expecting, I just figured the treatments weren’t for me.“


“It wasn’t some magic potion or trick, finally treating the sleep issues was the key to treating my depression.  I didn’t even worry about  feeling sad again because I had confidence in the techniques I was using – something I didn’t have before. I don’t need to see anyone for these problems anymore. I don’t know who is happier – me or my family. I know people with sleep problems alone must have a difficult time, but I cannot describe what it was like to have depression and insomnia together.“


Laura is 35 years old, married with two young children. Based in Plymouth, she works part time managing an admin team. She reported her depression starting in her early teens but only began to seek professional help in her early 20’s. She describes trying several types of antidepressants and other medications to reduce anxiety, as well as sleeping pills and therapy treatment programs for depression on the NHS and privately. Currently Sleepyhead Clinic is treating Laura’s retired mother, Megan, who is based in Wiltshire, and has suffered from similar issues all her life.


Sleepyhead would like to thank Laura, her mother Megan and the rest of her family for allowing us to share their story.


Follow us @sleepyclinic and Sleepyhead Clinic  Facebook page for more interesting news and advice on sleep problems.