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Feelings of sadness, disappointment, or hopelessness can be a healthy reaction to life’s challenges. Normally, these feelings come in waves, are tied to thoughts or reminders of challenging situations, only last for a short period of time, and don’t interfere with school, work, or relationships.

In depression, these feelings follow a different pattern. When they persist for more than two weeks, are felt nearly every day, and remain for most of the day, they may be related to a group of mood disorders called depressive disorders. Also called clinical depression, depressive disorders include feelings of sadness, disappointment and hopelessness, as well as other emotional, mental, and physical changes that lead to difficulties with daily activities.

Depression is the leading cause of disability globally, affecting about 4.4% of the world’s population. After anxiety, depression is the second-most-common mental health issue in the United States. As many people with depression know, it can dramatically affect a person’s sleep and overall quality of life.

What Causes Depression?

While researchers don’t know the exact cause of depression, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing this condition. These include having a personal or family history of depression, experiencing major stressors or traumas, taking certain medications, and having specific illnesses.

Family history is a factor in about half of people with depression. A person’s genetics may affect the function of neurotransmitters (substances that help nerve cells communicate) that are linked to depression, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Also called Major Depression or Clinical Depression, MDD is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD causes seasonal depression that typically occurs at the same time each year. It’s especially common in areas where seasonal changes cause reductions in sunlight during winter. Symptoms include lethargy, depression and social withdrawal.

Psychotic Depression (PD)

When major depression is accompanied by psychosis, it’s called Psychotic Depression or Depression with Psychosis. PD is a temporary mental state characterized by abnormal perceptions that may include delusions and hallucinations.

Situational Depression (SD)

SD refers to short-term feelings of depression that accompany a traumatic or challenging life event. The symptoms are often like those of major depression.

Depression Causes & Risk Factors

Although the causes of depression are not fully known, they are likely a combination of factors. Risk factors for depression include:

Depression in Women  What Are the Symptoms of Depression in Ladies

  • genetics or family history of depression
  • brain chemistry
  • personal life circumstances.
    Depression can strike at any time but commonly appears during late adolescence to mid-20s. Women are more likely to experience depression than men. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode during their lifetime.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

The symptoms of depression can include physical changes as well as changes in moods and thoughts that interfere with normal daily activities. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent sad, low, or irritable mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia, waking up too early, or oversleeping
  • Low appetite or overeating
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is more common in women and there may be differences in the symptoms of depression based on sex and age. Men often experience symptoms such as irritability and anger, whereas women more frequently experience sadness and guilt. Adolescents with depression may be irritable and have trouble in school, and younger children may pretend to be sick or worry that a parent may die.

How Is Depression Diagnosed?

Depression can only be diagnosed by a medical professional, so people experiencing symptoms of depression should talk with their doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist. They may ask about the severity of the symptoms and how long they’ve persisted. They may also suggest tests that can help them to better understand your situation and monitor changes or improvements over time.

A provider may also refer patients to a specialist in sleep disorders to help determine if there is an underlying sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome, that may be causing depression or contributing to symptoms.

How Is Depression Treated?

While depression can have dramatic effects on a person’s sleep and overall quality of life, it can be treated. After working with a doctor or mental health provider to understand the type and severity of depression, treatment may include:

Counseling: Depression can be treated effectively with several types of counseling, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT for insomnia (CBT-I) is a type of CBT that focuses on managing chronic insomnia.

Depression in Women  and What Are the Symptoms of Depression in Ladies
Medications: Antidepressants are an effective treatment for depression. These prescription medications usually take time before they begin to improve symptoms and patients may need to try several antidepressants before finding the right fit. A doctor or psychiatrist can discuss the appropriateness of these medications and recommend a specific type.

Brain stimulation therapies: When medications and other approaches are not effective, some people with depression consider electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or other, more recent types of brain stimulation like repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). These treatments can be effective but are only provided under the guidance of a trained professional.

Treatment often isn’t limited to just one of these approaches; in fact, combining medication and psychotherapy has shown higher rates of improvement than one approach alone.

Tips for Sleeping Better

Sleep problems can increase the risk of initially developing depression, and persistent sleep issues can also increase the risk of relapse in people who have successfully been treated for depression. As a result, taking some of the following steps can both help you sleep better, boost your mood, and help decrease some of the problematic symptoms of depression.

Talk to a therapist: There are several different kinds of therapy to help you cope with depression and change your thinking about sleep. Therapeutic models such as CBT, interpersonal psychotherapy, and psychodynamic therapy can help you process some of the underlying feelings and challenges that contribute to depression. Mental health professionals can also suggest concrete behavioral changes to mitigate some of the symptoms of depression and give you coping mechanisms to manage restless, sleepless nights.

Keep a regular sleep/wake time: Suffering from depression can make it difficult to stick to a routine. Keeping a consistent bedtime and wake time sets aside the requisite 7-9 hours of sleep, and gives your body the opportunity for a full night of sleep. Additionally, establishing a nightly routine provides a cue for your body to begin winding down and prime itself for sleep.

Nap carefully: Restless or inconsistent sleep at night can make it tempting to nap during the day. Research has found the ideal nap length is between 10 and 20 minutes, what is usually called a “power nap.” These power naps can help regulate our emotions, reduce sleepiness, and lead to an overall uptick in performance. It’s important to keep your napping relatively brief, however. Naps that last longer than 20 minutes could interfere with your ability to fall asleep, while naps shorter than 10 minutes just aren’t long enough to gain the benefits from napping.

Avoid alcohol: It can be tempting to have a drink or two to promote relaxation and sleepiness, but alcohol has a deleterious effect on our sleep. While studies have shown that binge-drinking before bed leads to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, even moderate drinking is enough to disrupt your sleep cycle and shorten REM sleep.

Get outside: One of the simplest ways to aid your sleep if you suffer from depression is to spend time outside. Exposure to sunlight aligns our body’s internal clock — our circadian rhythms — and gives us cues when to be alert and when to sleep. For instance, when we get regular sunlight, it is a signal to our body to be alert and active. As the sun sets, our bodies then produce melatonin to induce sleepiness and promote sleep. Time outside can be a simple and effective way to trigger the natural chemicals in our brain that promote high-quality sleep.

Exercise regularly: A great way to spend time outside is exercising. Not only do you gain the benefits of exposure to sunlight, but it improves sleep quality. In fact, research indicates those who engage in light, moderate, or vigorous exercise reported very good or fairly good sleep quality. Additionally, regular exercise has shown to significantly decrease symptoms of depression, making it an excellent choice to promote sleep health and mental health. If you decide to begin an exercise regimen, consider doing your workout during the first half of the day; exercising in the evening could interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

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