Depression and sleep disorders

A depressed person often suffers from insomnia. Yet it is not uncommon for people to have an excessive need for sleep and sleep 12 to 14 hours a day. So we prefer to talk about “sleep disorders”.


97% of depressed patients who consult a GP suffer from insomnia . This is often also the first complaint and the first sign of early depression . Poor sleep increases fatigue, which in turn makes life more difficult for the depressed. This causes him to worry more and more, which keeps him from sleeping, to such an extent that he gradually ends up in a vicious circle.

This vicious circle must of course be broken. Before reaching for sleeping pills, one should determine what type of insomnia it is because not all sleep disorders are caused by depression.
Many other diseases are also accompanied by this symptom. The insomnia inherent to depression has two important aspects:

  • falling asleep late.
  • frequent awakenings during the night and more particularly early morning awakenings, accompanied by anxiety crises.

Caution: It should not be imagined that every awakening in the early hours of the morning is a sign of the onset of depression . Proof of this are the morning types who jump out of bed fit and cheerful at the crack of dawn. So it is also a matter of biorhythm . The anxiety crisis of premature awakening, on the other hand, is a serious alarm sign.

Excessive need for sleep

We speak of hypersomnia (excessive need for sleep) when the sleep duration exceeds ten hours. Here too we must be careful: any hypersomnia is not necessarily a symptom of depression. Hypersomnia can also have other causes:

  • temporary causes such as changes in lifestyle habits.
  • use of certain medicines and alcohol.
  • certain breathing disorders.

The depressed person who extends his sleeping time (from 10 to 14 hours sometimes) tries primarily to regain strength by sleeping because he imagines that sleeping for a long time is a cure for his enormous fatigue: that is incorrect. After all, his sleep is disturbed and is therefore not refreshing.

In addition, he mainly tries to escape from a painful reality that he cannot accept or over which he has no control. That’s why he basks in his sleep. In short, it is not the quantity of sleep time that counts, but the quality. Some people sleep only a few hours a night and still stay fit. Just think of the famous British politician Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison, the inventor: they had enough with four hours of sleep.