Depression is one of the most common ailments of our time. The CDC estimates that just under 10% of the US population is depressed at any one time; so many people are afflicted with depression, in fact, that it is the leading cause of disability in the country. With such a widespread and varied group of patients, methods of treatment vary widely as well. Medication and therapy, while certainly the best-known treatments, are far from the only ways we have to combat mental illness. Recent research suggests that depression can also be tackled by treating patients’ insomnia.
Depression often accompanies other mental and physical maladies. One of its more common attendants is sleep disorders: as many as 60% of adults with depression also suffer from symptoms of insomnia, and a 2011 study established that there was a link between the two disorders rather than it being a matter of shared symptoms. As insomnia places stress on the mind and body much like depression does, this can make life even more difficult for depressed patients already struggling to overcome a daunting obstacle to their ability to function.
Research has found that not only is insomnia related to depression, but often it precedes the depressive episode, suggesting that the sleep disorder could act as a possible trigger. In turn, treating insomnia in depressed patients has been found to positively affect treatment for depression as well. Further studies are being conducted, but recent findings suggest that insomnia treatment could double a patient’s chances of recovering from depression, possibly the most significant advance in depression research since the introduction of Prozac. Even better, the insomnia treatment tested in the study was not a kind of drug, but a kind of talk therapy that is both cheap and rather brief. Access to mental health services could thus be improved for people rendered financially unstable by the effects of their illness. Some of the researchers involved have suggested that standard depression treatment should be augmented with insomnia-focused therapy, should these results be borne out in wider tests.
While consulting a mental health professional is always suggested for people suffering from either or both of these disorders, many components of insomnia treatment can be managed alone, with proper research and preparation. Much of the treatment involves changes in lifestyle and habits, which can be difficult to learn at first but much easier to maintain once entrenched. One of the more obvious suggestions is to limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine consumption; keeping your daily coffee confined to before noon can reduce nighttime wakefulness, nicotine has a similar effect, and alcohol can make you drowsy but increases interruptions in sleep. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day and night also assists in keeping your sleep regular and peaceful, as well as eliminating naps or keeping them to under half an hour before 3 PM. Keeping your activities in bed to exclusively sleeping as much as possible also helps, as does ensuring that noise, light and heat are limited in your bedroom. The supplement melatonin can also assist in ensuring peaceful sleep or combating jet lag, but can also increase daytime drowsiness. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, consider trying some of these measures in conjunction with proper treatment.
Sleep Deprivation and Depression by UrbanSculpt Staff Writer Elektra Christensen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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