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Sleep and Mood Relationship

The Relationship Between Irregular Sleep Patterns, Clinical Depression and Mood Fluctuations

The relationship between sleep patterns and mood disorders such as depression is multifaceted. In some cases, your depression can cause sleep problems and in other cases your sleep problems can cause mood fluctuations and depression. In other words, your mood swings and/or depression may be caused by irregular sleep patterns or your irregular sleep patterns may contribute to or aggravate your depression and/or cause mood swings.

Research suggests that sleep pattern changes and mood disorders like depression share a biological link. In addition, both conditions respond to the same types of treatment. According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 25% of people diagnosed with clinical depression will experience insomnia.

Sleep & Depression

Your circadian clock is responsible for regulating your sleep patterns. Sleep occurs when your brain secretes melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone that balances your sleep and wake cycles. If you are depressed, you may experience a decrease in melatonin and changes in your sleep patterns that aggravate your depression. A disrupted circadian cycle can cause mood disorders like depression.

For instance, you may experience insomnia for several days before your experience a depression episode. In other words, a change in your sleep pattern, caused by jet lag, a change in your work shift and/or stress, can interrupt your circadian cycle and trigger depression. In fact, it is possible for a disruption in your circadian clock to induce REM sleep approximately 20 minutes earlier than normal, resulting in insomnia and depression.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea & Clinical Depression

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has also been linked to clinical depression. If you have clinical depression, you are five to ten times more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea, irregular or restricted breathing during sleep. This condition is usually treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. In addition, the CPAP machine has shown success in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and clinical depression. In a recent study, people with OSA experienced significant improvement in their depression symptoms following treatment with the CPAP machine.

Insomnia & Depression

If you suffer from sleep disruptions such as insomnia on a regular basis, you are ten times more likely to experience clinical depression then those who sleep soundly throughout the night. Moreover, if you are clinically depressed, you have an increased risk of irregular sleep patterns that result in problems falling asleep, staying asleep, waking early and experiencing daytime drowsiness. Significant changes in your sleep patterns during the night can cause you to feel groggy when you waken. Furthermore, you have the highest risk of clinical depression if you experience chronic insomnia or constant changes in your sleep patterns

Sleep & Moods

If you suffer from depression, even a slight change in our sleep pattern can affect your mood. Losing as little as 4 hours a sleep a week can cause you to feel overly stressed, sad, depressed, and angry and mentally exhausted. When you finally get the sleep you needed, those feelings typically subside and your mood improves. Changes in your sleep patterns will not only affect your mood, your mood can affect your sleep patterns.

For instance, when you are agitated, stressed. Frustrated and/or stimulated, you may have a hard time falling asleep. Chronic changes in sleep patterns, either too much sleep or too little of sleep can make you “cranky,” unresponsive and unproductive. It can also cause anxiety. In fact, if you recently experienced a significant change in your sleep pattern, you are more likely to react negatively towards others then people who have balanced sleep and wake cycles.

In addition, changes in your sleep pattern can contribute or exacerbate your psychological problems. For instance, chronic insomnia may increase your risk of developing mood disorders such as: clinical depression, manic depression and/or anxiety.


Carney, C. & Manber, R. (2009). Quiet your mind and get to sleep: Solutions to insomnia for those with depression, Anxiety or chronic pain. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

National Alliance on Mental Health. (n.d.). Depression . Retrieved from .

Science Daily. (2007). Longer treatment benefits sleep apnea patients . Retrieved from


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