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Insomniacs likely to have depression

8th November 2011

People who struggle with insomnia are twice as likely to be depressed as people who do not, according to a recent Japanese study.

Sleeping

About a fifth of all Japanese are estimated to suffer from insomnia, but comparatively little research has been done there.

Daniel Taylor, a sleep researcher and associate professor at the University of North Texas, who was not involved in the study, said that people who were having problems with sleep should get assessed by a behavioural sleep specialist sooner rather than later.

He said there was a well-established link between depression and insomnia, and that it also seemed that sleep medication did not help ease depressive symptoms.

The researchers focused on a small village in rural Japan, putting out questionnaires and following them up after two years had elapsed.

The first set of questionnaires went too about 3,000 adults, all of whom lived in a town called Daisen.

Two years later, the researchers asked the same group of subjects if they would like to fill out a follow-up questionnaire, and just over half of the study subjects agreed to do so.

While one survey was used to measure insomnia symptoms, the other was specially tailored to measure depressive symptoms.

They found that, among the people who filled out the questionnaires, people who had trouble sleeping were twice as likely to have developed depression over the course of the study.

Srinivasan Pillay, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study, said the finding was of interest to other researchers due to the fact that it confirmed a link between sleep abnormalities and depression.

He said that many studies had made the same association, although it was still hard to say which caused the other.

The Japanese researchers knew there was a link, but they were more interested in finding out whether or not the link stayed as time passed, as well as whether or not certain types of insomnia were more strongly linked to depression.

They found that poor sleep quality raised depression risk by 60%, whereas experiencing disturbed sleep raised people's depression risk by 60%.

Being dysfunctional during the day after not getting enough sleep raised people's risk of depression by 80%.

Having trouble falling asleep and taking sleep medication to cope increased people's depression risk by 40% when taken together, while falling into one of the two categories increased a person's depression risk by 20%.

As far as the effects of depression on poor sleep were concerned, the researchers found that people with an ongoing case of depression were three times as likely to have insomnia than people who did not.

Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist on the clinical faculty of the University of California in Los Angeles, said she felt the report had flaws, since it counted insomniacs who were already depressed as statistically significant.

She said the study did not seem to have tested for early morning awakenings, which are a particularly characteristic symptom of depression.

 

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