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Sleep Deprivation Alleviates Depression

S u m m a r y :
Sleep deprivation, when clinically ‘administered’, reduces the symptoms of depressions, says a new study published in the journal The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Less Sleep, Greater Results

We, humans, need sleep. But, even though it is beneficial to us, too much of it is also harmful. But, what if we were to play with these rules, and find a way in between to treat clinical conditions?!

A meta-analysis of 66 scientific papers conducted by a team of investigators from the University of Pennsylvania shows how sleep deprivation in controlled environments can help patients suffering from depression: according to the findings that take into consideration studies performed for around 3 decades, 50% of depression patients found relief when deprived of sleep.

Sleep Deprivation vs Medication

Depression is most commonly treated with antidepressants—these drugs will take weeks and weeks to deliver results. However, sleep deprivation, which brings about productive results within 24 hours, is not as frequently prescribed. Partial sleep deprivation, whereby one sleeps for only 3 to 4 hours after which they are forced to remain awake for 21 hours, was found to be as effective as total sleep deprivation whereby one remains without sleep for 36 hours; more interestingly, these results were not affected by medication.

The sleep deprivation method is under-exploited despite its rapid effects, and despite having been documented since a long time now. Study senior author Philip Gehrman explains that even if over 3 decades have elapsed since its antidepressant benefits, a thorough follow-up has not been done such that researchers still do not fully understand the treatment—which is why their study comes in handy.

“Our analysis precisely reports how effective sleep deprivation is and in which populations it should be administered,” says Gehrman.

Sleep Deprivation Works For All

Lead author Elaine Boland explains that sleep deprivation is effective for a range of populations.

“Regardless of how the response was quantified, how the sleep deprivation was delivered, or the type of depression the subject was experiencing, we found a nearly equivalent response rate,” says Boland.

Boland and her team adds that further research will be needed to have a better grasp of the precise mechanism that allows sleep deprivation to alleviate depression both rapidly and significantly.

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