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What is the link between depression and sleep?

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The linkSleeping too muchSleep disturbances as a causeAntidepressant meds and sleepTips to sleep betterSummary
Sleep disturbances, like sleeping too much or not enough, are common symptoms of depression, known as major depressive disorder. If you do not have depression but live with sleep challenges, you may be more likely to develop this mood disorder.  
Medically reviewed by Nicole Washington, DO, MPH
Updated on

Depression is a mental health condition that, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), affects around 1 in 15 U.S. adults in any given year.

Often, mental health professionals diagnose the condition based on a set of criteria established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR).

After a consultation and review of your medical history, your health professional will try to identify at least five of the following symptoms: 

  • low mood that may involve sadness, hopelessness, or a feeling of helplessness
  • loss of interest in most or all activities that you used to enjoy
  • changes in your appetite that may lead to weight fluctuations
  • changes in your sleep cycle, like insomnia (difficulty sleeping or lack of sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
  • fatigue (low energy)
  • feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or recalling information
  • changes in the way you move (moving too quickly or slower than usual)
  • thoughts or attempts of suicide

These symptoms must be persistent over time and across situations for at least 2 weeks and have no other possible cause, like a brain injury or substance use.  

Woman with depression having trouble sleeping
FG Trade/Getty Images

Sleep disturbances are common among people with depression. Up to 90% of people with depression have at least one sleep challenge. But not everyone experiences the same ones or with the same intensity.

The DSM-5-TR states that the two most common sleep disturbances for people with depression are: 

  • Insomnia: Experiencing persistent problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Hypersomnia: Feeling sleepy most of the day and sleeping longer hours than usual, including frequent naps. 

Research suggests that around 80% of people with depression experience insomnia, and about 15–35% experience hypersomnia. In other words, it is more common for people with depression to find it hard to sleep, than it is to sleep more hours than usual.

Is oversleeping a symptom of depression? 

Hypersomnia is a symptom of depression in many people, but not the only one. Sleeping more than usual is not, on its own, a sign you are developing depression.

To receive a diagnosis, a mental health professional must see at least four other symptoms that interfere with your daily life. They may also want to confirm you have had hypersomnia most of the days in the last 2 weeks or longer. 

Do sleep disturbances cause depression? 

The cause of depression is not yet understood. Experts believe it may be a combination of external and internal factors, including genetics, life experiences, and environment.

Sleep challenges alone do not cause depression. Still, not getting enough sleep or sleeping more than 9 hours every day may make you more prone to developing some symptoms of depression. Lack of sleep may also make the symptoms of depression worse.

Here is what the research says:

  • The “Sleep in America” poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) notes that people who have trouble falling or staying asleep 2 nights a week report more symptoms of depression than those without any sleep challenges. It is not clear, though, if the depression symptoms cause the sleep disturbances or vice versa. 
  • The NSF also suggests that over half of those people who don’t get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, had mild depression symptoms. 
  • 2020 study of 316 mothers notes that lack of sleep led to a higher chance of depressive symptoms during and after pregnancy. 
  • A 2021 study suggests that people with depression who have both insomnia and hypersomnia may experience more intense depressive symptoms, like severe impairment in socialization, and a higher chance of suicide.

In some instances, lack of sleep may improve symptoms of depression. A 2015 study and a 2021 review suggested that sleep deprivation therapy may, for some people, improve depression symptoms for a short period of time. Sleep deprivation therapy involves intentionally missing sleep for one or more days.  

Do depression medications affect sleep?

Sleep disturbances may be a side effect of some medications. Still, not everyone experiences the same effects or with the same intensity.

Common depression medications include:

Research suggests that some of these antidepressants, especially SSRIs, SNRIs, and TCAs, are more likely to lead to difficulty falling asleep.

Consider discussing with your health professional which antidepression medications and dosage may be best for you.

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Tips for optimal sleep hygiene when you live with depression

If you live with depression, good sleep hygiene (which means building good sleep habits) may improve your chances of getting the rest you need. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests: 

  • Getting into a routine: Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day (including weekends). You should aim to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. 
  • Exercising and eating healthy meals: Being active during the day and eating a nutrient-dense diet may help you sleep better. 
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol: It can help to avoid any caffeine (in things like coffee, tea, and dark chocolate) and alcohol, at least 4 hours before bedtime. 
  • Avoiding electronic devices before bed: Laptops, phones, and your TV before bed may make it difficult to fall asleep. Try to avoid these for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. 
  • Sleeping in a cool and quiet room: Setting your room at a temperature that feels comfortable to you is key. Also, try to avoid distractions like wind chimes, noisy appliances, or lights. It can also help to stay away from bright light before bedtime. 


Sleep disturbances like insomnia and hypersomnia are common symptoms of depression. They may also be a contributing factor to more severe depressive symptoms.  

Depression treatment may help you improve sleep disturbances. Still, some antidepressant medications may lead to or worsen sleep challenges. Consider discussing possible side effects and existing sleep symptoms with your healthcare professional.

Getting into a sleep routine, regular physical activity, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, may help you sleep better. 

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.