Could Your Sleep Habits Cause Depression?

We have all occasionally experienced having a poor night’s sleep and felt sluggish, fuzzy-brained and perhaps short tempered the next day. But could sleeping poorly cause depression? It may be so. New studies have found a strong connection between depression and sleep duration. American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. M. Safwan Badr states, “Healthy sleep is a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being. This new research emphasizes that we can make an investment in our health by prioritizing sleep.” A study involving 1,788 adult twins found a relationship between the duration of sleep and depression. The results suggested that any sleep increase or decrease outside the normal range increased the risks for depressive symptoms. Twins who slept a normal sleep duration of 7 to 9 hours per night had depressive symptoms 27 % of the time. When twins slept for around 5 hours per night, the symptoms increased to 53 % and 49% for those who slept 10 hours. This shows a direction relationship between sleep duration and depression. Lead investigator Dr. Nathaniel Watson, associate professor of neurology and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center in Seattle claims, “We were surprised that the heritability of depressive symptoms in twins with very short sleep was nearly twice the heritability in twins sleeping normal amounts of time.” Another important study documented the relationship between major depression and short sleep durations in adolescents. The study of 4,175 young people between the ages of 11 and 17 suggests that sleeping 6 hours or less can lead to major depression, which then can lead to more problems getting enough sleep. According to principal investigator Dr. Robert E. Roberts, professor of behavioral sciences in the School of Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, “These results are important because they suggest that sleep deprivation may be a precursor for major depression in adolescents, occurring before other symptoms of major depression and additional mood disorders. Questions on sleep disturbance and hours of sleep should be part of the medical history of adolescents to ascertain risk.” In the U.S. about 9% of adults deal with depression. It will affect 11% of teens at some point, with 3% experiencing a serious depressive disorder. The studies suggest one way to maximize the effectiveness of treatments for depression may be optimizing sleep. Although most people know the importance of sleep, many do not make it a priority. Finding enough time in the hectic pace of society today often makes it hard to get enough quiet relaxation for good sleep. A practical goal of getting enough sleep is essential to staying healthy and happy.


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