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What research tells us about the link between sleep and depression

Experts have known for a long time that there is a link between depression, insomnia, and insufficient sleep. Depression can lead to disturbed sleep, which can worsen depression symptoms, creating a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break.

Experts do not fully understand the link between insomnia and depression, but new research continues to shed light on the connection. Let’s take a look at some of that research.

Depression, Insomnia, and Brain Functioning

Several studies have found evidence of brain disturbances among individuals with insomnia symptoms. The disturbances involve several brain regions, including the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, and affect both the brain’s structure and function. The findings, highlighted by a review published in a 2019 issue of Journal of Affective Disorders, still need further study.

An earlier study, published in 2017 in The Journal of Neuroscience, found a link between depression, sleep disturbances, and reward-related brain function. This study focused on a region of the brain called the ventral striatum (VS), which plays a role in behavior related to motivation and goals. In particular, the study authors found that an increase in VS activity led to reduced association between sleep disturbances and depressive symptoms in university students. This suggests that high reward-related VS activity could help protect against the poor sleep associated with depression.

Other Health Conditions Can Accompany Insomnia and Depression

Many different studies have looked at connections between insomnia, depression, and a range of other health conditions. These include physical and behavioral health concerns.

A study in Korea found that both depression and insomnia are significantly associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Chronic pruritus, or itchy skin, is significantly associated with insomnia and depression, no matter its cause. Among patients with chronic pruritus, those with symptoms of insomnia or depression had significantly more intense pruritus than those without.
Many dialysis patients experience sleep disturbances. Among patients with earlier-stage chronic kidney disease, however, depressive symptoms were also associated with sleep quality.
In a study of young refugees from North Korea, these individuals were not only likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also insomnia. The greater the levels of PTSD, the higher the likelihood for developing depression-related sleep problems.

Treating Insomnia in Those With Depression

Treating insomnia in clients with depression can lead to improvements in their overall health. Just like other behavioral health conditions, however, treating depression and insomnia may require multiple approaches. You may need to use a trial-and-error approach, and carefully assess each client for changes, improvements, and side effects.

Resolving insomnia may call for a combination of medications, different types of counseling, and lifestyle factors, such as exercise and nutrition. You may consider alternative therapies, as well. For example, research suggests that acupuncture may help some individuals with depression-related insomnia, especially when used in combination with other methods.

When you treat clients with depression, it is important to track sleep quality and other lifestyle factors. The right tools can help you observe your clients over time, so you can make better treatment decisions and see significant improvement, faster.

At BestNotes, we’re working to make life easier for behavioral health providers and the clients they serve. Our EHR solutions help your organization and staff save time, reduce frustration, and increase revenue. Contact us today to learn more.

date:  Dec 21, 2021
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