Depression and sleep issues often occur simultaneously and can be self-reinforcing. I had given up on getting good sleep, but after a lot of trial and error I eventually fixed things.
#1. See a doctor and/or psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist if you think you have depression. This is easily the most frustrating part of the process since it can be hard to find the “right” person to click with. Finding a good provider for therapy is a lot like dating, unfortunately. The right fix will probably be a combination of both talk therapy and medication for a period of time. For me, it was around a year of both, but it might be shorter or longer depending on your needs.
#2. Track your sleep, so you understand what is really going on. Sleep Cycle is a good app for this. The trackers aren’t perfect, but they are better than nothing and add an element of objectivity to what is sometimes emotionally charged.
#3. Sleep Hygiene. Checking all of these off the list is hard, but it will definitely help you sleep better over time.
- Minimal to no caffeine after 2pm
- Remove as much alcohol from your diet as possible/practical
- Dark room. Get blackout curtains. Seriously, I know it feels like a lot of money but it’s worth it.
- No pets in the bedroom.
- Remove as many devices as you can from the bedroom. More on this later.
- Remove all the clocks that you might be able to see when getting up on the way to the bathroom if you have to get up
- Have a variety of light and heavy blankets in case you get hot or cold
I use an Amazon Alexa as an alarm clock, which helps me not have my phone in the bedroom. (I got this idea from a podcast featuring Kate Courtney and it has worked great).
I used to have terrible insomnia after years of battling depression and also a really bad work schedule when I was working for a startup (was regularly pulling 36 hour days inside of 80 hour weeks). I would wake up 5-7 times a night and have terrible anxiety about getting back to sleep.
Now, I normally sleep pretty well, wake up feeling rested and maybe wake up 1 time a night and I don’t stress about it. It’s been so helpful to my well being that I pretty much optimize around getting enough sleep as my #1 priority.
Don’t give up on trying to fix it! It can be done.
The Peter Attia podcast 47, 48, and 49 go into a very deep dive with the author of Why We Sleep. It’s a good listen also: