By Sarah Cummings
We all feel a little blue from time to time. Sadness is a fundamental part of the human condition. For the majority, feeling down is often a temporary experience connected to specific events. For others, a sense of sadness or hopelessness can be more persistent—this is what we all know as depression.
Depression is a serious condition that affects every aspect of a person’s life, from their appetite to what they think and feel to their ability to sleep. Treatment for depression differs from person to person and can involve therapy and medications, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants. While the pros and cons of certain treatments are regularly debated, what isn't up for debate is the affect a healthy sleep routine can have on a person experiencing depression.
The relationship between sleep and mental illness, specifically depression, is complicated. Some people find they can’t sleep at all, while others find they can’t stop sleeping. It’s not consistent for everyone. But everyone experiencing depression should work to improve and regulate their sleep because there are only benefits to be had. So, here are some tips to help improve your sleep, and with it, your mood.
Your bedroom should be a dedicated Zen palace of sleep. Too much noise, light or distraction can make sleep harder. So, make your room as dark as possible. Blackout curtains or blinds can be a helpful investment. If environmental noises bother you, then experiment with a “white noise” generator to drown them out. Ensure your mattress is up to the job. Laying down each night on an old, saggy or squeaking bed can inhibit your ability to sleep.
If you can't sleep, don't just lie there tossing and turning—get up and move to another room. Do something low key like reading a book or listening to some music. Then, when you are ready, return to your bedroom to sleep. This way, your brain will begin to associate your bed (and bedroom) purely with sleep and not sleep problems.
Getting into a regular sleeping routine is easier said than done when living with depression. But the benefits of heading to bed and waking at the same time every day—weekends included—is enormous. Some of those benefits include being able to wake up more easily in the morning and feeling more energized and focused throughout the day. Research has found that keeping a consistent bedtime is just as important as the length of time a person sleeps. Our brains respond well to routines and keeping the same routine will help combat feelings of lethargy.
Avoid starting any difficult or potentially stressful tasks close to bedtime. Allow at least an hour before bed to slow down and unwind before even trying to lay your head on the pillow. This means avoiding any devices with screens. The blue light they emit overstimulates the mind and suppresses melatonin production, a hormone that promotes sleep. Plus, watching movies or scrolling through social media may lead to increased levels of stress. Try reading a book or magazine instead of reading posts and news online.
Regular exercise is great for anyone with depression, or any stress-related condition, and it helps when trying to get into a normal sleep routine. Double win! Exercise releases endorphins—the body's natural antidepressant—which can seriously improve your mood. So, get into an exercise routine. This can be as simple as walking for at least 30 minutes a day, attending a yoga class or just doing some jumping jacks in your garden.
I know it can be tough to drag yourself out into the world. Somedays, you just want to lock yourself away and see nobody. But fight that feeling and get outside. Sunlight is full of Vitamin D, which is a great mood enhancer. Not only that, seeing the sun frequently helps your circadian rhythms recalibrate and get back into a rhythm. If you truly can't face the outside world, at least open your curtains and let the day come to you.
Depression is tough, and while the steps above all look simple, we know that when that big black dog is on your back, nothing is simple.
If you’re experiencing depression, remember there are people out there to talk to. Don’t suffer in silence. Speak to a health care professional, a friend, a family member or even a stranger who has been through similar experiences. Getting your worries out in open is the first step on the road to good health.
Hey everyone, I’m Sarah and I’m a sleep expert. When I’m not promoting the benefits of a nice night between the sheets, I love walking our dog Kip. Yup, I really do love sleep that much ;)
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