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Sleep and Depression

When people become depressed they also tend to suffer with sleeplessness. For years, the standard view was that the depression caused the sleep problem. However, more recent studies suggest that the relationship works both ways – depression influences sleep problems and at the same time these sleep problems can fuel further depression. This has some important implications for treatment.

Several studies have shown this relationship. In a Stanford study in 2008, patients being treated for depression with antidepressant medication were put into two groups – one received extra sessions of cognitive behaviour therapy for tackling insomnia whilst the other group received more traditional sleep advice. Sixty percent of the group receiving the cognitive therapy made a full recovery from depression compared to only 33% of those receiving standard advice. These and other studies suggest that providing specific insomnia treatment can double the recovery rate from depression.

In another study published last year, again involving depressed patients starting antidepressant treatment, one group was told to make sure they were in bed for six hours each night, whereas another group were instructed to be in bed for eight hours. (Importantly they weren’t they had to sleep – just to make sure they were in bed). Amazingly, over an eight week period, 63% of the eight-hour group recovered from depression compared with only 30% of the six-hour group. The researchers didn’t know whether the eight-hour group were, in fact, sleeping more. But it would be safe to say that they were giving themselves more opportunity to sleep.

These studies are exciting and have the potential to change how we treat depression. It would appear that providing help for depressed people to sleep better would appear result in a greater chance of recovery and a speedier response to medication.

For NHS funded therapy for stress, anxiety or depression, phone (01208) 871905 (between 9 and 1) or self-refer online - [HERE

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