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Sleeping difficulties and depression

It’s very common for young people and adults to have trouble sleeping. It’s normal to find it hard to sleep around key events, even positive ones such as parties or holidays. Excitement and anxiety can both keep us awake. One or two nights of poor sleep is fine – most young people can cope with that and catch up. However, if they’ve been sleeping badly for a few weeks, this may be a good time to try and change things.

The fact that sleep problems are so common makes it a useful place to start to change – telling other people that you have trouble sleeping can feel a lot easier than telling people you’re depressed and unhappy.

Sleep as a symptom of depression

  • People who are depressed may find it hard to get to sleep, perhaps because they have worries and thoughts going through their minds that keep them awake.
  • Once they’re asleep they may wake up during the night, worry, and find it hard to get back to sleep and therefore not feel rested in the morning.
  • In addition, depression is associated with waking too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep.
  • Alternatively, some people with depression may feel that they need more sleep than usual. They may feel tired a lot of the time, go to bed early and sleep in very late.

Once sleep is a problem, it’s quite easy to see how it might become something that keeps depression going or make it worse. Thoughts about the lack of sleep become another thing to worry about.

For further reading about sleeping difficulties, see our ‘See also’ section found at the bottom of this Step.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

University of Reading