You are here
Home > Blog > Family Practice Medicine > Insomnia And Depression Comorbidity

Insomnia And Depression Comorbidity

Insomnia And Depression Comorbidity

While the significance of sleep problems in emotional disorders has long been recognized, the precise nature of the reciprocal link between sleep and depressive symptoms remains elusive.

Research indicates a strong association between depression and sleep disturbances. Up to 90% of individuals grappling with depression report sleep issues, while 67% of those with sleep disorders have experienced past episodes of depression. Moreover, there’s a notable overlap between sleep-wake disorders and depression, with high rates of comorbidity. Insomnia, characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep, is particularly prevalent among individuals with depression, affecting approximately 75% of patients.

Despite these connections, the causal relationship between sleep disruption and depressive symptoms remains poorly understood. The onset of the pandemic has brought increased attention to both depressive symptoms and sleep disturbances. Studies have shown that about one-third of the general population experienced elevated rates of either high depressive symptoms or sleep-related issues during the pandemic.

Against this backdrop, our study aims to explore the temporal relationships between sleep and depressive symptoms, shedding light on the potential influence of sleep disturbances on depressive symptoms and vice versa during the early stages of the pandemic. The unique circumstances presented by the pandemic offer an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the interplay between these symptoms amidst a period marked by heightened psychological and sleep-related challenges.

Overview of the Study 

In this study, the researchers aimed to understand how sleep troubles and depressive symptoms might influence each other over time, with a focus on data collected during the early stages of the pandemic in the United States. Two assessment tools, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the Quick Inventory for Depressive Symptomatology—Self-Report (QIDS-SR), were utilized to measure symptoms. 

Additionally, the researchers sought to explore whether certain aspects measured by one tool might overlap with those measured by the other. Drawing from previous research, the study hypothesized a two-way relationship between sleep issues and depressive symptoms. The hypothesis posited that experiencing sleep difficulties would predict an increase in depressive symptoms over time, and conversely, experiencing depressive symptoms would predict sleep difficulties.


A study conducted by Bailey et al. (2021) surveyed 1200 participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to explore stress and coping during the pandemic. Participants, aged 18 and above, residing in the United States, with internet access and a 95% or higher approval rate on MTurk tasks, were eligible. The majority (59.2%) identified as male, with 73.8% White, 16.3% Black, 6.1% Asian, and 3.8% from other racial backgrounds. 

Around 20.5% identified as Hispanic or Latino. Participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 79 (M = 37.66, SD = 11.51), with 69% holding at least a 4-year college degree. Household incomes varied, with 11% <$25,000, 12% between $25,000 and $34,999, and so on. About 31.8% self-reported being diagnosed with a psychological disorder, with depression being the most common (n = 349), followed by anxiety disorder (n = 178), among others. Sleep medication usage was reported by 39.11% of participants, with varying frequencies. 


Based on the findings of the study, it appears that depressive symptoms play a significant role in predicting subsequent changes in insomnia symptoms. This suggests that individuals experiencing depressive symptoms are more likely to develop or experience worsening insomnia over time. This association underscores the intricate relationship between mental health and sleep disturbances, highlighting the importance of addressing both aspects in clinical interventions and public health initiatives.

Moreover, the study indicates that while depressive symptoms have a predictive relationship with insomnia, the reverse is not true; insomnia symptoms did not predict changes in depressive symptoms. This finding suggests that while insomnia may be influenced by depressive symptoms, it does not necessarily exacerbate or predict changes in depressive symptomatology. This nuanced understanding of the directional relationship between depressive symptoms and insomnia can inform tailored treatment approaches for individuals experiencing both conditions. It underscores the need for targeted interventions aimed at addressing depressive symptoms to mitigate the risk of developing or exacerbating insomnia. Additionally, it suggests that interventions solely targeting insomnia may not effectively address underlying depressive symptoms.

The study’s significance lies in its large-scale approach and methodological strengths, including the use of factor analysis to refine measurements of depressive symptoms and insomnia, repeated measures across multiple occasions, and within-person modeling. Contrary to existing literature, their findings indicate that insomnia did not have a notable effect on subsequent depressive symptoms. Importantly, most prior studies assessed these factors on only two occasions, whereas this study utilized approaches enabling simultaneous modeling of within-person reciprocal relationships.

In conclusion, the study’s findings highlight the bidirectional relationship between depressive symptoms and insomnia, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive assessment and treatment strategies that address both mental health and sleep disturbances. By recognizing the predictive role of depressive symptoms in influencing changes in insomnia, healthcare professionals can better tailor interventions to improve overall well-being and quality of life for individuals experiencing these interconnected challenges.

Final Thoughts 

The study revealed a unidirectional relationship between depressive and insomnia symptoms, wherein depressive symptoms were found to predict subsequent insomnia symptoms, but not the other way around. Contrary to the initial expectations, the findings did not support a reciprocal relationship between the two. An important insight gleaned from the study pertains to the impact of conducting Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA). Without this analysis, there was a risk of mistakenly using seven out of 22 items (32%) as indicators of the wrong construct. By discerning distinct constructs of insomnia and depressive symptoms, the study underscores the significance of such analytical rigor, especially in future investigations of comorbid symptoms.

Earlier research investigating the reciprocal relationship between depression and insomnia examined symptoms at baseline and after a 1-year follow-up (Jansson-Fröjmark & Lindblom, 2008; Morphy et al., 2007). While these studies hinted at a potential reciprocal relationship, they were limited by their use of only two-time points and a significant gap between assessments. Recent studies with shorter intervals between assessments have yielded mixed findings, with some failing to find evidence or offering only partial support for a reciprocal relationship (Lorenz et al., 2020; Tsai et al., 2021). Given the likelihood of a shorter causal period between depression and insomnia than one year, the researchers aimed to take advantage of shorter time lags and more frequent assessments to explore within-person relationships.

The findings suggest that experiencing depressive symptoms may drive subsequent changes in insomnia symptoms. This understanding contributes to a better grasp of the evolving dynamics between the two conditions over time. While the etiology may not always pinpoint the most promising intervention targets, the study suggests that successfully addressing depressive symptoms could significantly alleviate insomnia symptoms as well. Therefore, treatments targeting depressive symptoms may hold promise for managing insomnia symptoms. However, further research in this domain is warranted to deepen understanding and inform comprehensive intervention strategies.

Oncology Related Tools


Latest Research


About Author

Similar Articles

Leave a Reply