Depressed? Tackling Your Insomnia First Could Help

New study could lead to major shift in treatment

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 19, 2013 2:29 PM CST
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(Newser) – We might be on the verge of what the New York Times calls "the most significant [advance] in the treatment of depression since the introduction of Prozac in 1987": a new way of looking at treatment for depression and insomnia. More than half of Americans who suffer from depression also have insomnia, and a new study looked at people who struggle with both. It found that 87% of participants who saw their insomnia cured through talk therapy also saw their depression symptoms improve—whether they were on an antidepressant or a placebo. That's nearly double the depression cure rate for participants whose insomnia did not resolve.

The results are in line with an earlier pilot study, and three more studies of sleep and depression, all of which focus on talk therapy instead of drugs for treating insomnia, are coming in the next year. If similar results pile up, experts say depression treatment plans could see big changes. "It would be an absolute boon to the field," says one. Doctors have long known about the connection between sleep disorders and mood disorders, but typically sleep problems are seen as a symptom—when the truth is, as one researcher puts it, "The relationship is bidirectional ... insomnia can precede the depression," and thus it could drastically improve the depression cure rate if the insomnia is also treated. Click for more.

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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. - Dr. Nada L. Stotland, who is not connected to the latest research

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