Empowering the Freelance Economy

Are you depressed or just sleep deprived?

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Can’t sleep? Your mood might be feeling it too. Freelancers could be more prone to poor sleeping habits than others, which is why we look at the dark connection between sleep and depression and how to approach and eventually overcome both

Ever toss and turn all night, only to wake up feeling emotionally drained and depleted? You’re not alone. The relationship between sleep and mental health is powerful, and research increasingly proves a strong link between lack of sleep and depression no matter your age.

Studies consistently show a bidirectional relationship. One in three people with depression experience insomnia, and people with insomnia are 10 times more likely to develop depression. Poor sleep disrupts mood regulation, lowers resilience to stress, and alters brain chemistry, all factors that can contribute to depression.

However, depression isn’t limited to insomnia. Hypersomnia, excessive sleepiness, is also linked to depression. This suggests a complex interplay between sleep disorders and mood, where both can trigger and exacerbate the other.

The evidence speaks volumes:

  • A 2022 study in the journal Nature Human Behaviour found that short sleep duration was associated with increased depression risk, particularly among younger people.
  • The National Sleep Foundation reports that 75% of people with depression struggle with sleep issues.
  • Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry demonstrated that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to changes in brain activity and neurotransmitter levels, mirroring those seen in depression.

Breaking the chain:

Addressing sleep can be a powerful tool in managing depression. Prioritising healthy sleep habits, like establishing a regular sleep and wake schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding caffeine and screens before bed, can significantly improve both sleep quality and mood. In some cases, seeking professional help for sleep disorders or depression management may be necessary.

Is there a global sleep deprivation epidemic?

Sleep deprivation is unfortunately becoming a global epidemic, with multiple factors contributing to its rise. Here are some major suspects. How many factors do you think could be contributing to your quality of sleep?

Lifestyle and technological factors:

  • Always-on culture: The 24/7 accessibility of work and entertainment through technology (smartphones, laptops) disrupts our natural sleep-wake cycle and encourages late-night screen time, suppressing melatonin production and making it harder to fall asleep. Many of us now use our smartphones to help us “relax” through mindless social media scrolling which can lead to anxiety without us knowing it. Others use their phones to listen to sleep hypnosis videos, which arguably could be a better way to use your phone if at all.
  • Shift work: Jobs with irregular schedules (night shifts, rotating hours) clash with our circadian rhythm, leading to chronic sleep disruption and health consequences.
  • Increased urbanisation: Urban environments expose us to constant noise and light pollution, further hindering sleep quality. Find ways to create a more calming urban home like more houseplants to bring in extra oxygen and greenery.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can worsen sleep problems, while excessive exercise close to bedtime can also be counterproductive. A lack of sleep as we age also impacts our muscle tone according to one study. So those flabby arms could be due in part to increased cortisol, the stress hormone, and lack of sleep.

Socioeconomic factors:

  • Work-life imbalance: Long working hours and job insecurity can lead to stress and anxiety, making it difficult to unwind and fall asleep. Freelancers are among the highest percentage of people living this way.
  • Financial worries: Economic instability and debt can negatively impact mental health and sleep quality. However, if you proactively take steps every day to decrease your debt or non-essential spending habits you will feel more productive in reaching your debt-free goal.
  • Social isolation and loneliness: Lack of social connections and support can be linked to depression and poor sleep.

Health-related factors:

  • Sleep disorders: Conditions like insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome can significantly disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Mental health issues: Anxiety, depression, and chronic pain can all interfere with sleep.
  • Substance use: Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can disrupt sleep patterns and worsen sleep quality.


  • Age: Sleep needs often change throughout life, with younger adults tending to need more sleep and older adults experiencing more frequent sleep disruptions.
  • Gender: Women are statistically more likely to experience sleep problems compared to men.

It’s important to note that these factors often interact and compound each other’s effects. Addressing sleep deprivation effectively requires a multi-pronged approach that tackles both individual behaviours and broader societal and technological trends. By addressing the above contributors to bad sleep you can find what works best for you.

Are you depressed or just tired?

Remember, you’re not alone in this. If you’re struggling with sleep, depression, or both, reaching out for help is crucial. Talk to your doctor, a mental health professional, or a sleep specialist. You may even want to talk to a friend as they may be able to help you pinpoint some changes in your personal or professional life or even lifestyle that could be triggering excessive worry or sleep issues. With the right support and healthy sleep habits, you can break the cycle and find your way back to a brighter, well-rested mood.

Do you recall a time in your life when you didn’t have trouble sleeping? Compare your lifestyle now to then. What are the major differences? Can you pinpoint what could be causing your lack of sleep? Is it physical, chemical or emotional? You may find it could be a combination of all three so try to address each one by one.

Have you read?

Why do people in Blue Zones sleep better at night?

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