How to Reduce the Symptoms of Insomnia and Depression

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Insomnia and depression often go hand-in-hand. Going without sleep for prolonged periods of time can lead to depression. A person experiencing clinical depression may be unable to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.

Whichever comes first, insomnia or depression, one can exacerbate the other. Likewise, improvement in one area generally will bring out an improvement in the other.

In addition to any medications or therapies you may be undergoing, there are things you can do on your own that can help both insomnia and depression.


Physical activity may be the last thing someone who is depressed or fatigued feels like doing. Yet, studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as therapy and medicine when it comes to treating minor depression.

Exercise also helps the body sleep better at night if it is done in the morning - or no more than three to five hours before bedtime.

If the thought of exercising overwhelms you, remember it can be something as simple as walking, gardening, or swimming. You don't have to join a gym to get physically active.

The point is that you just do something that gets your body moving and your heart rate up.


Sunlight should be considered medication, or a drug. Two of its benefits are that exposure to sunlight can enhance the mood and it also helps to normalize the sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is a hormone in the body that helps to regulate your body clock and it is strongly influenced by light exposure.

Expose yourself to sunlight as much as possible, starting in the morning, and it can help lift your mood and make you feel more alert. Decrease the amount of light exposure, even artificial light, you get in the hour or two before bedtime and your body will start to relax. This makes falling asleep easier.

Social Interaction

When you are dealing with insomnia and depression, interacting with people may seem like a chore or a job. Yet, doing so can greatly impact your mood and outlook. Not only can friends and colleagues offer you outlets for your time and get your mind engaged on new things, they can also offer support.

Interacting with people more frequently can also work as a sleep aid. When you are engaged with others, you expend energy which can help you sleep later. Also, being around people who are on a regular sleep/wake cycle can help your body eventually adjust to a normal sleep cycle.

Online insomnia support forums have also been shown to help improve sleep in insomnia sufferers.

Sleep Sanctuary

If you are dealing with depression, it may be hard for you to shut your mind off and sleep. It is important that you create a sleep sanctuary.

Your bedroom should be a place that is only used for sleeping and sexual activity. If your bedroom has turned into a place where you have intense discussions, work on your bills, talk on the telephone, or a place to eat - move those activities to other areas of the home.

The brain should be re-trained to only associate things related to sleep to this area of your home. Doing so can calm the mind and make sleep easier to obtain and maintain.

Depression and insomnia are related. Science is learning more each day about how one impacts the other, as well as which may come first and most studies tend to agree that improvement in one can improve the other.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.