Treatments for Sleep Disturbances in Depression

Depression is a common, yet serious mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. One of the many symptoms of depression is sleep disturbances, including insomnia, hypersomnia, nightmares, and sleep apnea. These disturbances can lead to increased fatigue, reduced productivity, and a worsening of overall mental health. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to help manage sleep disturbances in depression.


One of the most common treatments for sleep disturbances in depression is the use of medications. Antidepressants, such as tricyclics and SSRIs, can help regulate sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep. Additionally, medications such as benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines can be helpful in cases of severe insomnia.

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Tricyclic antidepressants work by altering the levels of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and sleep. They are often used to treat depression as well as insomnia. Some common tricyclics include amitriptyline, doxepin, and imipramine.

  • SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)
  • SSRIs are a newer class of antidepressants that work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. This can help regulate mood, reduce anxiety, and improve sleep. Common SSRIs include fluoxetine, sertraline, and citalopram.

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps regulate sleep and anxiety. Common benzodiazepines include alprazolam, clonazepam, and lorazepam.

  • Non-Benzodiazepines
  • Non-benzodiazepines are similar to benzodiazepines in that they are used to treat insomnia. However, they are less likely to cause dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Common non-benzodiazepines include zolpidem, zaleplon, and eszopiclone.


In addition to medication, various therapies may be helpful in treating sleep disturbances in depression. These therapies can help address underlying issues that may be contributing to sleep difficulties.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • CBT is a form of talk therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that can contribute to depression and sleep disturbances. It can help individuals identify and challenge negative thoughts that may be keeping them awake at night, as well as develop better sleep habits.

  • Light Therapy
  • Light therapy involves exposure to bright light in order to regulate circadian rhythms and improve sleep. It is often used in seasonal affective disorder and may be helpful in depression as well.

  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Various relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Exercise
  • Regular exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety, which can in turn improve sleep quality. However, it is important to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it can interfere with sleep.

  • Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep hygiene involves developing better sleep habits, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and creating a relaxing sleep environment.

Alternative Treatments

In addition to traditional medications and therapies, there are also alternative treatments that may be helpful in treating sleep disturbances in depression.

  • Aromatherapy
  • Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils to promote relaxation and improve sleep. Some oils that may be helpful include lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang.

  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment and accepting thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality.

  • Acupuncture
  • Acupuncture involves the insertion of small needles into specific points on the body in order to improve energy flow and reduce anxiety. It may be helpful in cases of insomnia and depression.


Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of depression, but they can be effectively managed with a variety of treatments. Medications, therapies, and alternative treatments can all be helpful in regulating sleep patterns and improving sleep quality, which can in turn improve overall mental health. If you are struggling with sleep disturbances, talk to your healthcare provider about the best treatment options for you.