sleepy woman with alarm clock

Q. My wife suffers from depression and sleep deprivation. She refuses to see a doctor or take any drugs. Are there any supplements or remedies that could help with her depression and sleep problems?

A. Sleeping problems and depression may be linked and often seem to intensify each other in a vicious cycle. The supplement most often considered for treating sleep deprivation is melatonin. Several studies suggest benefit, although the research is not definitive (Current Treatment Options in Neurology, Sept. 2009). We are sending you our Guide to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, with many suggestions for non-drug approaches to overcoming insomnia, as well as a discussion of melatonin and other treatments.

One reader offered this experience:

“My doctor, a sleep specialist, told me to put four daylight lights in my bedroom. (They are also called ‘happy lights.’) Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time every morning. Set the alarm, then turn the clock around so you can’t see it. (I used to look at the clock every hour.)

“When the alarm goes off, get up, no matter how tired you are. Turn on the daylight lamps and spend half an hour in the room. You don’t have to look at them, just be in the room with them.

“After following that regimen for two weeks, I started waking up refreshed and ready to go. I had been desperate, like a zombie during the day and dreading bedtime. This worked for me!”

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  1. Judy Z

    Recently at the suggestion of my sister in Switzerland, I started taking Chinese Skullcap (Scuttelaria baicalensis). It serves to relax me and I fall asleep and stay asleep. Has anyone else tried it? I assume it is better known in Europe.

  2. DB

    By daylights, do they mean the UV or Blue lights? I read somewhere that those can cause damage to your eyes. Is this true? It would be nice to have more information on how these lights work and if there is any concerns with using them.

  3. Troubled Teens

    Sleeping disorder is the major problem of adolescents suffering from drug alcohol addiction and psychological problems. Sleeping problem also causes behavioral, emotional and sex problems in people. Counseling programs are effective in dealing with stressing issues that cause insomnia in teenagers. Teenage sleeping disorder hampers academic, social, professional and sexual life of people hence it is required to be treated properly.

  4. JK

    As Robert suggested, I have found Melatonin to be the answer for me. There are no issues the next morning such as dizziness, etc. I take it only when I need it. I shut off all the lights, take it with water and I am off to sleep within 20 minutes! I could not get to sleep for hours, so thanks to this miracle pill, it works for me! It also comes in liquid form, besides 1, 3, and 5 mg. tabs. I take only 1 mg.

  5. Kathleen

    4-7-8 follows:
    breath in slowly for 4 seconds…hold for 7 seconds and release slowly for 8 seconds. As far as I know that is what 4-7-8 means.
    There may be other answers but that is what I understand it to mean.
    Hope that helps

  6. pmm

    Please advise what 4-7-8 breathing is, exactly, and what it is supposed to do to aid in sleep. Thank you

  7. DCE

    You must eliminate as many sources of light as possible in the room where you sleep, including all the light from sources such as night lights, clocks, radios, video recorders, tvs, illuminated light switches, the glowing smoke alarm light, etc. Light suppresses your natural melatonin. If necessary put a cloth or blanket or tape over them. Use black out curtains.

  8. Brent B.

    I would like to see a future story or discussion on the specific lights used in this solution — like the full-spectrum ones I’ve heard of. Definitely it helps to experience outdoor sunlight, to restore your vitamin D and melatonin levels, so that’s probably the best option to reset your “sun cycle.” Also try to minimize the EMF fields around you that are caused by electric appliances, cell phones, etc.
    Altogether it is not so surprising that sleep deficiencies are common. The necessity for physical labor has been minimized, and so many people are spending too much time indoors (especially because of the cold weather now). So let’s all look forward to spring and help it get here sooner by spending more time outside!

  9. SDW

    Have your Vitamin D level checked by a blood test. Although I was taking vitamin D with my calcium, my Vitamin D was very low (I live in the NW). Once I started taking Vit D drops and got my level up to normal, I started having less sleep problems and less ‘blue’ days.

  10. Robert

    I like melatonin. It relaxes me and allows me to get to sleep without making me feel groggy the next morning. It’s fantastic.

  11. Kathleen

    Usually sleep deprivation is the result of anxiety. Anxiety causes depression. I know because I have been there. My sleep problems all started after anxiety became overwhelming. The only relief I have found was seeing the doctor and being prescribed cipralex which is a new SRRI. I finally have wonderful sleep and no more anxiety. The doctor prescribed clonazapam as well but I didn’t need it once the Cipralex was helping me. General Anxiety Disorder is a common mental illness and once I recognized that I had this problem then I was able to get help. I sleep well now and wake up fully refreshed.
    Taking a medication for a mental condition is as normal as taking a pill for thyroid disease or osteoporosis. I have both of those conditions as well. Life goes on and we do what we have to do to feel better.
    Avoiding medications to help depression is not wise. I tried that route and it didn’t work. All the natural products I tried did not stop my anxiety.
    I would rather take a medication and feel better than go all night without sleep and feel terrible all day long.

  12. BPM

    I sleep on the kind of electric bed which enables the head of the bed to be raised and the knees to be elevated. After developing a pattern of waking up around 3:30 or 4:00 A.M. and not being able to go back to sleep, I discovered by accident a remedy. For some unknown reason, I go back to sleep–even into a deep sleep–by raising the head and the knee/foot. Then I sleep solidly and soundly until the alarm goes off. This pattern has now been going on for several years.
    Is this purely anecdotal or is there some scientific explanation (i.e., circulation) of this phenomenon?

  13. Jean H.

    Re: Sleep Deprivation
    At the times when I am having trouble getting back to sleep during the night, I have been using 4-7-8 breathing (with tongue on upper part of mouth near teeth) technique and am really surprised at how it helps. I do 20 breaths but may not need that many. I just want to be sure of results and it probably just helps relaxation even more. What a surprise to me. Thanks to you and thanks to Dr. Lowdog.

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