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How To Tell If You’re Sleep-Deprived — Or Depressed

by Shivani K

Isn’t “feeling sad” every once in a while a fundamental part of the ‘being human’ experience? It is especially so during trying times. There are days when we just feel very tired and don’t really want to do anything. It isn’t because we feel lazy. We feel like we have no energy left in our body anymore. Our body and mind feel a sense of fogginess and fatigue that simply cannot be explained. But, what if we’re just not tired or sleep-deprived? What if we’re on the brink of depression? It’s tough to understand and know one’s body and mind when it’s not in a pleasant state, isn’t it? Let’s read and try to understand how we can figure if we’re depressed or sleep-deprived. Read on to know more.

What The Stats Say…

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Sleep-Deprivation: The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that one among three adults in the United States just doesn’t sleep enough. When one doesn’t get enough sleep (roughly 7-9 hours), there is a strong impact on their quality of life, motivation, energy levels, and emotions. The report of CDC says that such people are likely to be more prone to chronic health conditions, which include depression (1).

When one is feeling low, often they might not realize that the “blah” mood they’re facing is due to lack of sleep. Understand that even the tiniest levels of sleep deprivation can tear apart your happiness. Slowly, you’ll begin to notice that you feel less enthusiastic, very irritable, and begin to have symptoms of clinical depression, such as feeling empty or sad constantly.

Depression: The stats w.r.t. depression too is quite sobering. The WHO (World Health Organization) says that nearly 300 million people (yes, you read that right) worldwide are receiving a diagnosis for depression (2). And, the National Sleep Foundation says that around 20 million people who are depressed suffer from insomnia and restless sleep as well(3). It’s true, people who are depressed have trouble falling asleep; they even end up suffering from headaches when they try too hard to fall asleep.

Both these problems, lack of sleep and depression, face similar symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Low energy levels
  • Impaired concentration

So, now the question is, how can one tell the difference? Which problem generally occurs first? We did our bit of research and found out that there are quite a number of ways to differentiate between the two and these ways are through our body.

How To Read And Understand Our Body’s Signals

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We need to treat our body like a temple. Our body gives us signals and tries to communicate that there’s something abnormal happening inside. Even before someone else points out and says, “You’ve become a panda. Look at those dark circles under your eyes”, our body must’ve already made us feel like a lazy panda. Here are a few of the symptoms of sleep deprivation that our body is signaling to us:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Feeling forgetful or fuzzy
  • Mood changes
  • Decrease in libido
  • Fatigue

Similarly, here a few symptoms of depression:

  • Low energy levels
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased concentration
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Suicidal thought

Another easy but vital trick to know if you are depressed or just tired is to go stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself. If you look at yourself and say that you want to fix the problems that you’re facing in life — you’re definitely either too tired or sleep-deprived. But, if you look at yourself and think that you don’t really care and think that it’s just a phase that will pass by — you certainly are falling prey to depression.

Track The Symptoms And Its Timings

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Another way to differentiate between sleep deprivation and depression is their timings. For example, it is said that depression can be characterized to be somewhere between a 4- to 14-day window where one feels the lowest of the moods. This is the not-dangerous stage of depression. If it lasts for more than two weeks then we seriously recommend that you go consult a psychologist or a counselor and seek help.

Sleep Deprivation And Depression Are Interlinked

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Always remember that sleep is like the iceberg tip of our mental state. The relationship between mood and sleep is very complex as an emotional change tends to sprout because of disrupted sleep. On the other hand, anxiety or clinical depressions are the psychiatric conditions that can lead to disrupted sleep. Most of the doctors look for any disrupted sleep patterns while treating a mentally-ill person.

One major issue is that often, symptoms of depression can overlap symptoms of sleep disorders — this can lead to misdiagnosis. This is why we need to learn and understand the signals our body gives us. If you ask us what it takes for one to steer clear from both these problems, our answer would be — practicing a healthy lifestyle! Make sure you eat fresh and clean, limit your screen time, and get ample sleep and exercise. What are your ways to practice a healthy lifestyle? Let us know in the comments section.

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