Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sad, Stressed and Sleepy - The Disturbing Cycle of Depression

Depression, stress and sleeplessness can disturb one's life without you knowing it. It's a tough world out there, and with a million different sources of pressure and stress, it's easy for people to suddenly feel the happiness sucked right out of them. What's surprising, though, is that the deadly dance of stress and depression can become a never-ending cycle perpetrated by sleeplessness: not only can fatigue cause depression, but for people with depression stress can also be caused by insomnia. Looking at the great depression stress link (in the light of physical disturbances such as insomnia) can give us insights on the different causes and symptoms of this deadly mix that threatens the wellbeing of people the world over.

Depression: Causes and Consequences

According to the World Health Organization, depression is a common psychological disorder, affecting 121 million people all over the world, and is one of the leading causes of disability globally. It is a mental disorder that presents itself as a loss of will, interest and pleasure, low self-appraisal and intense guilt, as well as disturbed energy levels, appetite, sleep and concentration.

Depression is caused by no single factor in a person's life, however, it has been reported that stress - be it chronic or acute - can lead to your body's own stress-response system. This can increase levels of stress hormones in your body called cortisol, while causing reduced serotonin and dopamine levels in the body, which regulate your natural processes like appetite, sex drive, and the all-important evening slumber. For people with insomnia stress causes a host of physical and emotional problems. These imbalanced hormones cause sleeplessness and insomnia, and the insomnia stress causes leads to depression.

Sleep and Depression: A Cycle

It's not just one way though, as it's not a simple stress-causes-insomnia and insomnia-causes-depression process. Insomnia from stress does not just cause depression; as people in the deep of depression also experience insomnia. It can either come as difficulty sleeping at night, or even difficulty staying asleep and waking up too early, causing a lot of stress not just emotionally but physically as well. Sleeplessness causes a lot of anxiety, and for people with insomnia stress causes a myriad of problems in the body and the mind. If you have insomnia, stress causes you to lose focus and feel lethargic, discombobulated and tired.

Sleeplessness is a prime stressor, as for people with insomnia stress symptoms can include physical problems, rendering the body weak, prone to accidents and even heart disease. When a person suffers from insomnia stress symptoms can also include, to a more disturbing extent, hallucination - which can cause further anxiety and distress.

This stress, as we've discussed, can lead a depressed person further into the disorder if no intervention is made. In fact, in one study, it was shown that depressed elders with insomnia were more like to stay depressed after a year a whopping 17 times more than depressed seniors who had undisturbed sleep.

Putting it to Rest: Getting Help

Establishing the link between depression stress and insomnia, the path to treatment seems quite obvious. The insomnia stress causes can lead to depression after all, so it only seems right to treat these symptoms. True enough, in a study of clinically-depressed patients with sleep problems, participants who were treated with the drug Prozac (an antidepressant) and Lunesta (a drug for insomnia) improved far quicker. Patients who were merely treated for depression lagged behind in terms of recovery, strengthening the link between depression and insomnia.

However, while it is helpful, targeting insomnia stress symptoms is just that - targeting a symptom. For people with depression stress is still the cause, and in order to solve the depression and insomnia stress causes, meds that target symptoms are not the only answer. A lifestyle change can do wonders to support the alleviation of insomnia stress symptoms.

For people with insomnia stress symptoms such as the weakening of the body can be alleviated with a proper diet and the correction of bad habits. Staying away from coffee and caffeine, sticking to a regular bedtime, relaxation techniques like meditation can do wonders.

For depression, stress must be avoided as much as possible. Joining self-help groups, undergoing therapy and counselling, and even simply exercising can do wonders. In the same manner, exercising can lead to better sleep, thereby proving to be helpful for people with insomnia stress symptoms.

In the end, this triple threat of stress, depression and sleeplessness, though widespread and deadly, can be helped with the proper medication as well as, more importantly, proper knowledge of yourself and the lifestyle you choose to live.

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