Insomnia is a major contributor to depression, and unfortunately, 30 to 50 percent of older adults complain of insomnia. A new study from UC Los Angeles explored the connection between sleep and depression risk and found that sleep training therapy is highly effective at reducing depression and depression risk.
In a randomized trial, one group of patients received basic sleep education on the importance of sleep and sleep environment while the other group underwent cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia to improve sleep. In those who saw a decrease in insomnia for three years, there was also an 83 percent reduction in the likelihood of developing depression.
The researchers used the CBT-I sleep therapy strategy for eight weeks. This method has five components: Stimulus control, sleep restriction, sleep hygiene, relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. This method focuses on setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep with a cool and dark environment as well as calming environmental choices like practicing yoga before bed and eliminating blue light exposure. The cognitive behavioral therapy component focuses on breaking “dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs about sleep.”
Although the treatment itself only lasted for two months, one third of patients who received CBT-I therapy were still insomnia-free after three years. Addressing some of the root causes of depression can yield longer term relief for patients without the use of medication, but these do take time, effort, and money. This study demonstrates that for patients with insomnia and depression, a therapeutic intervention for insomnia could be key to reducing depression.
Source study: JAMA Psychiatry – Insomnia and inflammation: a two hit model of depression risk and prevention