Posts tagged depression and sleep
The National Sleep Foundation has reported that we in the US are in the middle of a 50-year decline in sleep time. One study found that 90% of Americans use their gadgets within the last hour before bedtime at least a few nights a week. They also found that the average college student loses 46 minutes of sleep every night because of answering phone calls or checking messages. All of these disruptions add up to our risking losing much-needed sleep which will prevent our brain from doing its job. When we lose sleep, we lose a lot more than rest: Many sleep specialists believe sleep deprivation leads to less efficient learning, higher emotional states, increased anxiety, and a less effective brain.
One of the reasons for our lack of sleep is due to our staying connected whether due to work or for personal reasons. Some may feel our wireless routine is expected, even normal, and that there’s little to fear since staying connected is so seamless to nearly every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, staying connected at certain times is harmful to sleep rhythms. Recent studies discuss how anxiety may emerge because of our need to be connected.
For now, let’s skip the psychological reasons for why we feel anxiety when we feel the need to write—or read—one more email. Instead, let’s look at how staying connected to our mobile devices physically affect sleep. Sometimes that seemingly harmless email verification or update does more harm than you’d think at certain times of the day. Those anxious about staying connected are more likely to use their technology right up until bedtime. Staying connected causes neurological disruptions because the blue wavelength light from LED-based devices (phones, tablets, computers) triggers the release of cortisol in the brain, a chemical that makes us more alert while inhibiting the production of melatonin, the chemical that helps us fall asleep. This is why The National Sleep Foundation advises powering down our mobile devices—especially at least one hour prior to bedtime.
The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping your screen at least 14 inches from your face and dimming the brightness to reduce the blue light if you must read an hour prior to bedtime. Doing this should increase the natural melatonin released so you can fall asleep. Another study, by researchers at Harvard Medical School, found that those who read a paper book fell asleep ten minutes sooner than those who read an e-book. Those reading an e-book experienced 90 minutes of delayed melatonin onset — and had half the amount of melatonin released. They also experienced less rapid eye movement during sleep. These effects were further complicated by anxious people because they had more cortisol in their system. Anxious people, in general, tend to have shorter attention spans and switch tasks every 3-5 minutes. Both behaviors are known to spike stress and cortisol levels, thus creating a vicious cycle. Although anxiety may be a psychological underlying cause for checking emails or texts and such every ten minutes, what’s suggested here is that for more sleep power down your mobile devices at least one hour before bedtime to get a good night’s rest.
New research suggests that men who have the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) appear to be at higher risk for depression. Remember, depression afflicts over 34 million Americans. Understanding how some sleep problems are often a symptom and a cause of depression will help anyone better understand the causes of their depression; and thus get the necessary treatment.
In this recent study of 2,000 Australian men between 35 and 83 years of age, researchers discovered those who are unusually sleepy during the day were 10% more likely to be depressed than those who were not (University of Adelaide and the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health, 2015). After taking into account other risk factors, this relationship was tested, resulting in a strong connection between sleep apnea and depression.
To begin, these men had never been diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea coming into this study, yet the researchers diagnosed 857 of them for this condition. The study found that those with the condition were a little over 2 times more likely to be depressed than those not having the sleep disorder, according to the researcher Carol Lang.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that has been long believed to affect depression. This recent research makes a clearer connection between the two conditions. Researchers found that some of the men suffered from both severe sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness. These men were 4 times more likely to be depressed compared to those with no sleep issues. Men having both undiagnosed severe sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness were at an even greater risk of depression. Their risk of depression was up to five times greater, according to this study.
The researchers evaluated all of the men twice for depression, with the second test occurring five years later. This time frame allowed the researchers to see a link between a recent diagnosis of depression and sleep apnea. This research established a clear link: That men having sleep apnea during the study were nearly 3 times more likely to become depressed during those five years.
Although the nature of the study precludes “our drawing any conclusion to cause and effect,” Lang said, she noted that the relationship between apnea and depression was strong.
This study’s aim did not allow researchers to determine whether sleep problems increase men’s risks of depression. The reverse could be true, or even other factors could contribute to both depression and sleep disorders.
The nature of the link between sleep and depression is still not clear; however, the results do provide ENT specialists with more information to accurately diagnose treatments. The take-away from this study is that doctors should consider patients diagnosed with depression should also consider testing for obstructive sleep apnea, even if they don’t appear sleepy.
Researchers out of the University of Calgary, Canada, released a study that shows it may be possible to treat depression and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) with the same treatment. Certain devices that are normally used for treating OSA have been found to also alleviate symptoms of depression, according to the study. These machines, the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and the mandibular advancement devices (MADs), help patients during sleep by keeping them breathing properly and avoiding those moment where OSA blocks the airways and stops the person from breathing for a moment; this moment can last a few seconds before the body “awakes” just enough to push through the blockage to start the breathing process again.
The researchers studied 22 randomized clinical volunteers, each diagnosed with sleep apnea and showing signs of depressive symptoms. Of those who were using the CPAP and MAD devices to help with their sleep apnea, each person showed signs of improving their depressive symptoms, according to the questionnaires filled out before, throughout, and after the trial period. Those who did not treat their sleep apnea, or who were treating it with methods besides the CPAP or MAD device, did not show many signs of improvement in their depressive symptoms. This data was cross-referenced with the known literature on sleep apnea treatment and depression, as there seems to be a connection between people with OSA and the depression a majority of them report to experience. One thing the researchers knowingly could not take into consideration with this kind of study was how much non-OSA treatments help with depressive symptoms, like depression medications and therapy, when used in conjunction with the OSA treatments. More studies are needed to learn the connections of these different types of treatments.
The results of this study further affirms that there are benefits to the CPAP and MAD devices that are greater than only helping the person breathe normally throughout the night. The depressive symptoms which seem to be strongly connected to sleep apnea, and the inability to sleep properly throughout the night, are alleviated due to a person being able to both breathe all throughout the night and being able to achieve uninterrupted sleep for several hours at a time. And, the study further revealed, the worse a person’s depression is before the treatment, the more improvement the treatment is on their depressive symptoms. As the main author of this Canadian study says, “This systematic review summarizes the available literature on OSA treatment,” further adding that this could be a novel way to treat depression and Obstructive Sleep Apnea together. “Our results,” he said, “illustrate that the greatest benefit of CPAP treatment on depressive symptoms may occur in populations with worse depression scores at baseline.”
Study of Osteoarthritis and Sleep: the Results Are Mixed
A new study of osteoarthritis and sleep by The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa found mixed results. On the positive side, the evidence shows that sleep disturbances in patients who suffer from osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common form of arthritis in the US – do not suffer more OA caused pain. Specifically, this means that the patients who were studied did not complain of a higher level of pain caused by OA, one year after reporting sleep disturbances or sleep loss. This is the good news. The bad news is that these same patients – those who have osteoarthritis and who claim to have sleep disturbances and sleep loss over the span of a year – almost unanimously reported higher levels of both depression and disability than did those patients with OA who were also able to generally sleep soundly.
The vicious cycle of the pain caused by osteoarthritis and the resulting lack of sleep, is common among those who suffer from OA, especially the obese and elderly. The head of the study, Dr. Patricia Parmelee, from the university’s Center for Mental Health & Aging, reports that, “Our research is unique as we investigate the complex relationships among sleep, OA-related pain, disability and depressed mood simultaneously in a single study.” This study on osteoarthritis and sleep has helped researchers to focus on other elements of treating OA, not just the glaring issue of constant pain. Dr. Parmelee further noted: “This study shows that depression plays a strong role in the sleep-pain connection, particularly with severe pain. Further investigation of sleep in disability progression may lead to new interventions that disrupt the cycle of OA distress.” Ultimately, this was the goal of the study. Hopefully, that goal may be achieved earlier than expected.
Sleep and Depression: Sleep’s Depression-Fighting Properties
There is a link between sleep and depression. According to one study, when a person sleeps between 7 and 9 hours per night, their risk of developing depression is cut in half. This holds true for both adults and teens alike. Thus, sleep’s depression-fighting properties can be a significant factor in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.
Unfortunately, sleep isn’t the only factor when it comes to mood. However, sleeping well each night may make depression easier to treat. This, in itself, is a big deal.
The reason for this stems from the fact that when we sleep, our brains have a chance to take out the trash, as it were. Imagine a hotel room where one guest immediately follows upon the other, with no chance for a cleaning in between. Imagine what that room would look like, after just a few days. Similarly, each night we need to give our brains the time they need to clean house. Sleep may not eliminate altogether eliminate the symptoms of depression, but it certainly may help to relieve them.
So, if you or a loved one suffers from depression, try to maintain a healthy sleep pattern. Of course, for those dealing with chronic depression, that is easier said than done. Talk to your doctor about your sleep problems. Getting this issue cleared up may very well brighten your mood a little, and, every little bit helps when dealing with a debilitating condition such as depression.
Yes, sleep does a body good—especially the brain. We have long known of the importance of sleep to physical health. The same is true of mental health. The link between sleep and depression is strong. But it is good to know that sleep’s depression-fighting properties can be activated simply with proper sleep.