This Is How Lack of Sleep Correlates With Depression

December 13, 2016

4:30 pm

Do you think losing a few hours of sleep each night is worthwhile, as long as you are getting more done each day? The evidence in this infographic indicates otherwise. When asked on Quora about lack of sleep and their ability to function, many CEOs indicated that they got significantly less sleep on a regular basis than is recommended for healthy living.

The majority of these C level folks operate on the assumption that as long as they are functional and their businesses are successful, everything is okay. What they may not realize is that over time, their lack of sleep could be having a significant impact on their mental health.

Lack of Sleep: Not Always a Secondary Disorder

According to WebMD, the lack of sleep can be caused by many factors. These include heartburn, alcohol consumption, chronic pain, stress, and sleep disorders. This article from the same source indicates that sleeplessness is a sign of clinical depression. Because of this data, for many years medical professionals have largely treated lack of sleep as a secondary disorder?

What does this mean? This indicates the belief that if the primary illness is treated, the lack of sleep will be resolved. In many cases this is true. It is very common for a person with clinical depression to report better sleep once they are being treated with antidepressants or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, there is emerging evidence that in many cases, insomnia is not a result of depression. Instead, it just might be the cause.

Executives And Mental Illness

There isn’t an organization that tracks statistics on rates of depression or suicide among executives and entrepreneurs. However, there is alarming anecdotal evidence that many upper level executives are struggling with depression and that some are even choosing suicide as a means to escape their struggles.

The Prefrontal Amygdala Connection

Everybody knows that sleep deprivation causes a decrease in our ability to function. In fact, the issue has become so important that drowsy driving laws are being proposed because it has been found that driving while sleep deprived can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. However, not much work has been done on researching the connection between sleep and depression, where a lack of sleep is explored as a causative factor instead of a result.

In spite of this, the research that has been done on this subject shows that losing sleep impairs the ability of the prefrontal amygdala to work correctly. Check out this abstract for the nitty gritty. According to the DNA Learning Center, the amygdala is the part of the brain that is most associated with depression. Combined, these two studies put out pretty compelling evidence that lacking sleep can definitely lead to depression.

Finding Practical Solutions to Insomnia

A large part of finding a solution to depression and other problems caused by insomnia lies in simply helping people to get more quality sleep. According to Sleep Junkie, many people underestimate the importance of a comfortable mattress, and a bedroom that is conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. People struggling with lack of sleep can also seek out other solutions including natural supplements, giving up caffeine in the evenings, losing weight, or using a white noise machine.

Conclusion: Making Sleep a Priority

Let’s face it. Sleep deprivation is often worn as a badge of honor. People, like the c-level executives in the Quora post mentioned above willingly tout their unhealthy sleep habits. Sleep, and its impact on health has simply not been regarded as important in many professional circles.

Things might be changing though. Recently, HuffPo founder Arianna Huffington started an important dialogue on sleep, giving a Ted Talk on the connection between sleep and success. Hopefully things will move into a positive direction, and getting enough sleep will be considered an asset not a liability.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien