Can You Die from Depression in Your Sleep? (Find out here!)

In this blog post, We will answer the question “Can you die from depression in your sleep?”.

We will find out if one can die from depression, and if yes, is it possible for that to occur while one is asleep? We will also understand the relationship between depression and sleep and find out ways to manage depression.

Can you die from depression in your sleep?

No, a person can not die from depression in their sleep. Here is why.

Depression is a common yet sometimes debilitating condition, and one of the predominant ways that it might be fatal is when the symptoms drive the person to take their own life. Depression which, when untreated, can result in death as it leads to suicidal thoughts or attempts.

Suicide can occur in all ages and is the second chief reason for death among adolescents and young adults, specifically 15- to 29-year-olds, worldwide. Further, about 8 lakh people die by suicide every year.

Several factors, ranging from biological to circumstantial, may lead to depression, including brain structure, medical conditions, family history, drug use, childhood trauma, and sometimes even sleeping pills!

Symptoms of Severe Depression

A person may be experiencing a depressive episode when, for at least two weeks, they undergo some of the following symptoms:

 Sleeping problems

This issue can be:

a. Difficulty falling and staying asleep (insomnia)

b. Frequently waking up during the night

c.  Excessive sleep

Every issue mentioned above has an impact on energy levels and daily functioning at home and work

 Feeling very tired or lacking energy (anergia)

Even after a full night’s sleep, one might have difficulty in even fulfilling primary care, such as eating, bathing, or fulfilling family or work responsibilities, which can put one at risk for other health problems

 Eating issues

One might experience a change in appetite, usually a decreased appetite causing them to lose weight. On the other hand, some may crave certain comfort foods sadness leading to overeating and gaining of weight.

Lack of motivation and loss of interest

One may feel unmotivated to do even the most straightforward or most enjoyable of tasks that used to be pleasant (aka anhedonia)

Psychotic symptoms

Psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions or both may occur in highly severe cases of depression

Suicidal ideations or attempts

There are suicide helpline numbers for almost every country. It is recommended that the person contacts the same when they are experiencing suicidal thoughts because a problem as severe as this requires immediate intervention. Alternatively, they are suggested to contact their therapist, or even a family member or friend.

Unexplainable physical problems

You might experience unexplainable physical symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, loss of sexual desire, nausea, digestive issues, and the like.

Some of the other severe symptoms include feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, and excessive guilt.

Warning Signs of Suicide

The following is a list of signs curated after careful consideration of pertinent literature:  

1.     Expressing interest in killing oneself

2.     Researching ways to kill oneself, including methods and purchase of devices to execute the same

3.     Displaying a sense of hopelessness, a lack of purpose to live

4.     Expressing feeling stuck and like a liability to others

5.     Expressing feeling intolerable pain

6.     Increased substance use, such as alcohol and other drugs

7.     Appearing anxious and restless, and behaving impulsively and carelessly

8.     Insufficient or excessive sleep

9.     Lonely and socially inhibited/withdrawn

10.  Enraged and revengeful

11.   Radical mood fluctuations

Depression and Sleep

As we have learnt thus far, depression if left untreated, can lead a person to die by suicide. Intake of excessive sleeping pills may be the only way one can die from depression in their sleep.

Various incidents of uncommon yet grave injuries and even deaths arising from several problematic sleep behaviours were reported upon consumption of sleep medications. These behaviours involved sleepwalking, driving in their sleep, using their stoves and generally engaging in events when not completely conscious. Therefore, in 2019, the FDA directed that some sleeping pills contain black-box warnings, outlining the severe consequences of using these drugs. Such cautions are currently seen on the packaging for eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien). This warning does not necessarily ward off people from exploiting such drugs.

With that said, depression and sleep in itself are closely related. Nearly everyone with depression undergo sleep problems. In fact, it is one of the predominantly occurring symptoms of depressive disorder.

The association between sleep issues and depression works in both directions. It indicates a bidirectional relationship, i.e., sleep of poor quality can play a role in the origination of depression and vice versa. Such a complex relationship may pose challenges in determining the original cause of distress – problems in sleep or depression.

Sleep issues associated with depression include insomnia (difficulty falling and staying asleep), hypersomnia (excessive sleeping), and sleep apnea (obstructions in breathing during sleep). It is estimated that insomnia occurs in 75 percent of adults with depression, making it the most common sleep issue; hypersomnia in 40% of young adults with depression and 10% of older patients. Many a time, people with depression may oscillate between insomnia and hypersomnia within one episode of depression.

Problems related to sleep may have a role to play in the beginning of depression through alterations in the way the neurotransmitter serotonin functions. Sleep disturbances can have an impact on the body, dysregulating the biological clock and sensitizing individuals to stress-related disorders such as depression.

With that said, fortunately, those who receive treatment for depression commonly indicate a development in their sleep hygiene and quality.

Tips for Sleeping Better

Focusing on sleep hygiene may improve sleep quality. Ways to improve sleep hygiene is different for different individuals and commonly includes keeping a consistent sleep schedule, minimizing exposure to electronic gadgets post-sunset, having a conducive environment to sleep in such as a dark and cool room. Listening to deep calming music has also been known to aid in insomnia.

How Can You Treat Depression?

Although you may feel like depression is ruining your life, it is possible to manage it. It is imperative to see a professional to receive treatment right away if you are experiencing any signs of depression. Note that the earlier one seeks treatment, the sooner the symptoms become manageable.

Apart from diminishing the risk of suicide, therapeutic interventions can decrease the psychological and physiological issues related to depression.

It is recommended to see a mental health professional to receive appropriate treatment. A few of the typical interventions for depression are outlined as follows:

  Psychotherapy

One of the most common interventions for this illness is psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as talk therapy. In this, a trained professional utilizes various techniques to treat mental illness and make desirable changes in one’s life. Various approaches to psychotherapy exist, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal therapy (IPT).

Therapy usually occurs one-on-one with a psychologist or a counsellor. Online counselling or teletherapy via audio or video calls has become widely prevalent these days.

There are several formats for psychotherapy, like individual and group therapies. Based on the patient’s needs, the therapist helps determine the best one for them.

The goals of psychotherapy include:

       i.          creating tools to adjust to crises or adversities in a healthy way

      ii.          discovering negative styles of thinking and behaving and replacing them with better, healthier ones.

    iii.          reframing relationships and life experiences in a healthier way

    iv.          fostering healthier ways to cope with and find solutions to problems

      v.          recognizing the factors in life that currently contribute to your depression and changing those to reduce your depression

    vi.          developing a better sense of control over life, and in turn, gaining better satisfaction

   vii.          learning how to set more realistic life goals

 viii.          understanding to healthily come to terms with sadness and distress in life

    ix.          reducing physical depressive symptoms apart from mental ones

Medication

In some cases, along with therapy, the mental health practitioner may advise the use of medication to help cope with depression.

Medications are usually prescribed so as to make the symptoms more tolerable for the individual. By doing so, they can optimally reap the advantages of therapy. A few common medications for depression include:

       i.          SSRIs – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

      ii.          TCAs – tricyclic antidepressants serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

    iii.          MAOIs – monoamine oxidase inhibitors

    iv.          SNRIs – serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors

Sometimes, other medications including antipsychotics and mood stabilizers are prescribed.

Typically, these prescription drugs take time to show improvements, and patients may have to try a few to understand which drug works best for them. A suitable type of antidepressant can be prescribed upon careful deliberation by a psychiatrist.

 Hospitalization

In-patient psychological health care at clinical and hospital settings are especially helpful for those with highly severe depression or those who have contemplated or attempted suicide.

Brain stimulation therapies

Sometimes – usually in extreme cases – it can be that the prescribed drugs and other methods do not suffice. In such cases, patients contemplate electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or even other, newer varieties of brain stimulation. These types include and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The mentioned interventions may be useful but are provided only by a qualified professional.

Conclusion

In this blog post, We answered the question “Can you die from depression in your sleep?”.

Depression is a disabling condition ranging in its severity, sometimes even leading to fatality when left untreated.

 A person cannot usually die from depression in their sleep unless their method of suicide involved the intake of excessive sleeping pills. Depression is a manageable condition, and if you think you or someone you know is experiencing depression, kindly talk to a professional regarding the same.

FAQs: Can You Die from Depression in Your Sleep

  Can you die of sadness?

Yes, although extremely rare, it is possible to die of a specific medical condition known as “taktsubo cardiomyopathy” or the heartbreak syndrome. An acutely stressful event causes a great rush of adrenaline to the heart, leading to an event similar to that of a heart attack. However, not everybody who gets affected by taktsubo dies.

   Has anyone died as a consequence of the heartbreak syndrome?

Yes, it has been speculated that taktsubo cardiomyopathy occurred among celebrities such as Debbie Reynolds, who died a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died, and Johnny Cash. He died within months after the death of his wife.

  What is the mortality rate of depression?

More than half of all suicides are the result of depression. If we were to include people have an addiction alcohol and are depressed, this number increases to beyond 75%.

  Which group has the greatest percentage of depression?

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women were almost twice as likely men to have depression. Further, among all groups of people with depression in the U.S., most (12.3%) fall in the category of adult women, particularly between ages 40 and 59, on the basis of both age and sex.

Which country is the most suicidal?

Greenland is the most suicidal country by a considerable margin, while India has the most significant number of absolute suicide deaths.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health/can-depression-kill-you#Depression-is-manageable

https://www.verywellmind.com/can-depression-kill-you-1067514

https://www.webmd.com/depression/warning-signs#1

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Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.