Recent studies indicate that when an individual suffers from depression and from insomnia, treatment of both psychological illnesses dramatically improves the chances of healing from both. It’s common for both insomnia and depression to exist concurrently. Although experts are not sure if one causes the other, research indicates that treating both disorders can bring significant healing.
Researchers found that among those who were treated successfully for insomnia, depression was also successfully treated. In one study, the insomnia treatment included four individual sessions of psychotherapy for over eight weeks. During the sessions, participants were provided with specific instructions to manage their insomnia – establish a specific time to wake up, get up and out of bed when not sleeping but do not eat, read, or watch television, and do not take any naps during the day. The results found that nearly 90% of those who followed the instructions and who fully participated in the study saw their depression lift.
The significance of the study is that it focused on providing psychotherapy rather than medication to treat the insomnia. This is the first of a series of studies on sleeplessness and depression that are yet to come in the next year.
In fact, the results of the study are so significant, and if they remain consistent in future studies, this form of treatment of depression could be as noteworthy as the introduction of Prozac in 1987.
Major Depressive Disorder is considered to be a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Major Depressive Disorder usually requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication. It is a psychological disorder that affects close to 18 million Americans, of whom half also have insomnia. It’s common for those who have depression to experience insomnia and at the same time, those who have insomnia often experience depression.
“It makes good common sense clinically,” said Dr. Nada L. Stotland, professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago. “If you have a depression, you’re often awake all night, it’s extremely lonely, it’s dark, you’re aware every moment that the world around you is sleeping, every concern you have is magnified.”
And experts have known for some time that disturbances in sleep are often related to mood disorders, such as depression and Bipolar Disorder. However, the National Institute of Mental Health is exploring the treatment of psychotherapy for insomnia that is inexpensive, brief, and solution-oriented. This form of treatment is not currently a standard treatment method for the sleep disorder. This is the first study that explores the treatment of both disorders at the same time. Using both antidepressants as well as insomnia therapy produces full recovery in about 40% of patients, which is a significant treatment outcome.
The study’s lead facilitator, Colleen E. Carney, indicated that because of the results of the study, there is a good chance that the standard treatment of depression and insomnia will include therapy that is focused on treating insomnia. However, she also acknowledged that the study included a small number of participants (66 people) and that a clearer picture needs to emerge with the results of future studies. The remaining studies will be held at Stanford, Duke, and the University of Pittsburgh, and each will include roughly 70 participants.
Insomnia is much more serious than sleep disturbances that many people have. To be diagnosed with insomnia, you must have at least six months of chronic sleep loss which have created a disturbance in your ability to function at home, work, or in relationships. In fact, several studies indicate that having insomnia will double the changes of becoming depressed. It’s clear that insomnia in many cases can lead to depression.
However, these research results are significant and can lead to better treatment methods for both insomnia and depression.