Guest post by Erika Long
Insomnia is an unfortunate sleep disorder characterized by having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep regardless of exhaustion level. Sleep deprivation can be hard on the body, but can it cause depression? Here are three studies about insomnia and how it relates to depression.
Insomnia Keeps Embarrassing Moments Alive
A 2019 study conducted by neuroscientists in the Netherlands has found that the brains of insomniacs are not capable of neutralizing emotional distress caused by previously experienced embarrassing mistakes and moments. MRI scans revealed that the brains of good sleepers had neutralized these events and left them in the past while insomniacs kept reliving the shameful moments.
Researchers also concluded that sleep deprivation accumulated throughout years of insomnia is making it harder for our brains to leave past events behind us and this actually perpetuates insomnia. People who have problems falling asleep are rethinking their memories, and the embarrassing ones are making it harder to sleep creating a vicious cycle of distress as these memories keep haunting them.
Insomnia Makes Us Focus on the Negative
A research paper published in 2017, led by a professor from Harvard Medical School has found that people who sleep less have more patterns of Repetitive Negative Thinking (RNT), than the general public. RNT is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a pattern of spending more attention and energy on negative occurrences and thoughts than positive ones. As a result, people who suffer with RNT are more likely to be depressed and feel anxiety.
Insomnia Makes Us Prone to Depression and Anxiety
Sleep deprivation has negative impacts on our long-term mental health. For instance, insomniacs are 10x more prone to clinical depression and 17x more likely to develop clinical anxiety than the general population.
Furthermore, neuroscientists from UC Berkeley have recently found that only one sleepless night increases anxiety levels by 30% compared to a well-slept night. This anxiety then makes it harder to fall asleep the following night, and the vicious cycle begins.
Insomnia is a tough problem to treat as exhaustion coupled with depression can make us feel too tired and blue to find a remedy. Likely, there are simple steps we can take that can improve our chances of getting the sleep we need.
Here are a few easy sleep hygiene tips:
- Be in bed by 10pm and aim to wake between 6am-8am.
- At least one hour before bed turn down the lights and stop using blue-light emitting devices, like cell phones, computers and tv monitors.
- Create a night time ritual that calms the mind down. Start with cleaning your face and teeth. Consider doing some light yoga or listening to spa music.
- Try resetting your circadian rhythm by taking a walk in the morning for 30-45 minutes in the sunlight.
- Finally, aim to reduce stress whenever possible.
To help with those long nights which often lead to rough mornings, consider treating your eyes regularly with an eye cream for dark circles such as Zax's Original Dark-Circle Eye Cream. It is made with natural ingredients like cucumber extract, niacinamide, caffeine. As insomnia can wreak havoc on the skin, Zax’s is a great natural eye cream for dark circles.
Erika loves corgis, curry and comedy. Always searching for the next great snuggle, flavor or laugh, she inspires people to live their best life now. When not writing, Erika can be found at her local brewery dominating Harry Potter trivia night.