Am I Depressed or Just Sleep Deprived?

Posted by Tyler Britton on Sep 22, 2020 8:00:00 AM


What is Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is the chronic condition of not receiving adequate sleep. Adequate sleep will differ from person to person, and change as we age. Most of us suffer from sleep deprivation because we either have trouble staying asleep, or getting to sleep. Does that sound familiar?

It's also important to distinguish between short-term sleep deprivation, such as sleep deprivation caused by anxiety or stress that will soon pass, and long-term sleep deprivation, such as a chronic lack of sleep that may spread over months or years.

Sleep deprivation is usually followed by sleep binging (i.e. on the weekends) before the cycle of sleep deprivation starts over. Chronic sleep deprivation is has a strong link to depression. One of the common signs of insomnia and sleep apnea, for example, is depression.

What is Clinical Depression?

Clinical depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel:

  • Helpless
  • Apathetic to your life and outcomes
  • Hopeless
  • Numb
  • Sad

While feeling sad is a normal part of being a human, the feelings associated with clinical depression are chronic and intense enough to interfere with relationships, personal habits, personality, jobs, etc.

Sleeping Disorder that Cause Sleep Deprivation

Basically any sleeping disorders can lead to sleep deprivation. Some of the most common sleep disorders that generally result in chronic, and sometimes severe, sleep deprivation are:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Circadian rhythm disorders

Symptoms for these sleeping disorders all have depression in common.

Sleep Deprivation and Depression

Sleep deprivation can make you at risk for many reasons including:

  • Less able to manage stress and anxiety
  • Less likely to get requisite exercise due to fatigue
  • Underperform at work, school, etc.
  • Chronic irritability that can interfere with relationships
  • Less engagement in activities
  • More brain fog and general apathy
  • The emotional impact of general inactivity due to fatigue

In short, chronic sleep deprivation can make you feel “abnormal,” less like yourself, a “worse” version of your normal self. Over time, these feelings and physical symptoms of sleep deprivation can weigh on our emotional and physical vitality. Alone or compounded with other symptoms, this can lead to depression.

Who is at Risk for Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can occur to anyone at any age, including:

  • Children
  • Teenagers
  • Adults
  • Elderly

Sleep disorders, physical, and hormonal changes do not discriminate. Sleep apnea is more common in men, but insomnia is more common in women. Puberty and menopause are extremely disruptive hormonal changes that affect both sexes at very different ages.

That being said, as we get older we naturally go through changes in the way we acquire requisite sleep. These changes generally leave people feeling like they are not getting enough sleep.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?


Commonly expected ranges of sleep we need are [National Sleep Foundation]:

  • <1 year: 12-17 hours per day (more sleep for newborns than toddlers)
  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • 6-13 hours: 9-11 hours
  • 14-17 hours: 8-10 hours
  • 18-65: 7-9 hours
  • 65+: 7-8 hours

Of course, we are all individuals and your sleep requirements may differ from these. These are just guidelines to help direct you in your sleep schedule.

What to Do If You Are Chronically Sleep Deprived?

The first thing you might consider doing is consulting with your doctor or a sleep specialist, who may be able to help determine if your sleep deprivation is caused by a sleeping disorder or other factors.

If you live in Alaska and suffer from chronic sleep deprivation and depression, please contact us one of our sleep specialists for a consultation.

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