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Is it Depression or Sleep Deprivation?

No one should have to live with the negative effects of depression. Dr. Jim Bledsoe, Family Practice Physician at Ogden Clinic, talks about what causes depression and how to overcome it.

What is depression and what causes it?

Depression is an illness caused by certain changes in a person’s brain chemistry. There are many things that can cause this negative change – anything from simple genetics to hormone levels to difficult life events. Many people that have depression also suffer from anxiety. With some people it’s predominantly one or the other, but many people with depression are anxious and vice versa.

Are there natural ways to treat depression?

I’ve found that a big part of tackling depression is getting better sleep. If you compare the symptoms of depression and the symptoms of sleep deprivation, they’re virtually the same:

  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty getting out of bed
  • Lack of motivation to exercise
  • Increased appetite for comfort foods
  • Poor concentration
  • Decreased sex drive

These are all symptoms of both sleep deprivation and depression. When working with my patients the first goal is to fix their sleep and then we can see if they’re really suffering from depression. Once we correct the sleep issues and get rid of the fatigue and brain fog, we can start to see what the other issues are.

How can I “fix” my sleep?

There’s a lot that goes into what we call “sleep hygiene.” If patients are having trouble sleeping, I encourage them to try these steps:

  • Limit caffeine intake after 3pm
  • Turn off electronics by 9pm
  • Try not to exercise right before going to bed
  • Read something boring before bedtime
  • Drink a warm cup of milk

Overstimulation from phones and electronics before bed is a prevalent problem, especially among teenagers. Many of them will go to bed at 10pm, but will stay up using their phone or electronics until very early in the morning. This, of course, negatively affects their grades and many other aspects of their lives.

Is it a bad idea to fall asleep watching TV?

For the majority of people watching TV at bedtime is a bad idea. But everyone is an individual and there are exceptions. If falling asleep while watching TV works for you, then that’s great – as long as you’re getting good sleep duration. Some people also like to fall asleep listening to talk radio, music, or books on tape. If it works for you, then you should absolutely do it.

What if I sleep well and am still depressed?

It is very common for people to sleep well and still suffer from depression. When that’s the case, the next step is to explore other treatment options including the possibility of antidepressants. Every individual is unique, which is why I work with my patients to develop the most-effective treatment plan for each of them.

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Dr. Jim Bledsoe practices at Ogden Clinic’s South Ogden Family Medicine location. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bledsoe, click here or call 801.479.7771.

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