Can sleep treat depression? While a good night of sleep is not an end-all cure for depression, getting consistent sleep can reduce depression symptoms. Many depression sufferers experience sleep deprivation, which only makes their symptoms worse. In this guide, we will explain the value of sleep in depression treatment and how you can improve your sleeping habits.
Your Brain Works While You Sleep
During the day, your brain is hard at work making sure you walk properly, keep your head upright, breathe, engage in conversations, chew each bite of food and process every word you read. That doesn’t leave much time to sort out emotions.
Your brain uses the time you sleep to process the feelings and events from the day. That text you read and forgot about? Your brain files it away at night. That awkward conversation you had with your coworker? Your brain handles that too. When your body is at rest, your mind can fire on all cylinders. That’s why you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day.
What Happens When You DON’T Sleep
If you do not get sufficient sleep at night, your brain doesn’t have time to neatly sort every thought, feeling, emotion and interaction. Whatever it doesn’t have time for gets pushed to the following evening. But by then, you have a whole new set of memories for your brain to process. That pile of brain work gets bigger and bigger.
This is also why you may wake up feeling tired before the day even starts. Your mind is trying to catch up on everything it needed to do, and now you’re making it work before it’s ready. If you can find a way to give your mind the time it needs, you can relieve that weight you feel throughout the day. This eases stress, reduces depression symptoms, improves energy levels, and so much more.
How to Get Better Sleep
Here are some ways to set yourself up for a peaceful night of sleep:
- Try to go to sleep around the same time each night. This will soon become muscle memory. The human body thrives on routines. Once you develop a pattern, your body will take care of the rest.
- Create a calm environment for rest. Use room darkening curtains to make the room dark, and cancel out sound with soothing music or earplugs. This is especially important for night shift workers who must sleep during the day.
- Avoid technology 30 minutes before bed. The blue light from your phone screen or laptop will keep your mind wandering long after you close your eyes. Then you’ll get frustrated about not falling asleep, and you’re more likely to stay awake longer.
- Avoid eating/drinking before bed. Eating and drinking increases your need to use the restroom, which may cause you to get up several times in the night.
- Don’t feel pressured to get to sleep. This stress will make it more difficult to fall asleep. Even if all you do is rest, you’re accomplishing something. We will discuss this more in the next section.
- Drink mostly water. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol affect your body’s natural energy patterns. If you currently rely on caffeine to get through the day, avoid it during the last few hours of the evening. As you incorporate more water and less caffeine into your diet, your natural energy will start to emerge.
- Plan to go to bed before you go to sleep. Rather than watching TV on the couch minutes before bed time, spend the last 30 minutes to an hour just laying in bed. Think about events from the day and let yourself drift off into sleep.
Take Caution – Don’t Turn Sleeping into Work
For some people, trying to sleep more makes their symptoms worse. They feel stressed about not sleeping enough or not falling asleep at the right time. That intensifies depression symptoms. The suggestions above provide a loose guideline for getting better sleep. Use them as a guideline, not a definitive way of life. As your depression symptoms improve, you will naturally get more sleep. This improves your symptoms even more, and the cycle continues.
For information about depression treatment or to learn how to treat depression and sleep deprivation, contact our counseling office in St. Louis, MO. You may call us at (888) 726-7170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected with a counselor for individual or couples counseling at any of our offices in Greater Chicago or St. Louis.