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Sleep deprivation can rapidly reduce the symptoms of depression

Author: Rich Haridy

Haridy, Rich. “Sleep Deprivation Can Rapidly Reduce the Symptoms of Depression.” New Atlas, 20 Sept. 2017, https://newatlas.com/sleep-deprivation-depression/51407?utm_source=Solutions+Story+Tracker.

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It may sound counter-intuitive, but for decades it has been known that sleep deprivation can rapidly alleviate symptoms of depression. A new meta-analysis from a team at the University of Pennsylvania has examined more than 30 years worth of studies on the strange phenomenon and concluded that sleep deprivation can result in antidepressant effects in up to 50 percent of people.

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Nearly 200 years ago, a German psychiatrist named Johann Christian August Heinroth successfully experimented with sleep deprivation as a treatment for, what he called at the time "melancholia." Over recent decades the phenomenon has become a major area of study for psychologists and a process called Wake Therapy was developed to quickly alleviate major depressive symptoms and jumpstart treatment with antidepressant drugs.

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"More than 30 years since the discovery of the antidepressant effects of sleep deprivation, we still do not have an effective grasp on precisely how effective the treatment is and how to achieve the best clinical results," says senior author of the new study Philip Gehrman.

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In compiling the meta-analysis the team focused on 66 studies (out of a pool of more than 2,000) to understand what variables either increase or decrease the efficacy of a sleep deprivation treatment for depression. In generating its findings the team took into account age, gender, accompanying medications and different types of sleep deprivation (i.e total, partial, early or late).

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The results showed that sleep deprivation was effective across the board, regardless of demographics or delivery technique. In studies with a randomized control group, positive responses were identified 45 percent of the time, while in studies without a control group, positive responses hit 50 percent.

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"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 Gehrman.

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One of the biggest challenges researchers now face in translating this seemingly odd, but longstanding phenomenon into a practical treatment is the fact that the effects of sleep deprivation on depression are not long-lasting. Depressive symptoms tend to recur anywhere from one day to one week after a treatment.

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And pragmatically, sleep deprivation isn't a long-term solution to depression, with many studies correlating chronic insomnia and sleep disruption as actually being a trigger for depressive symptoms. But the research does point to some fundamentally fascinating conclusions about how our brains function. A study from 2015 discovered that sleep deprivation influences the same mood-regulating receptor in the frontal lobe as ketamine and tricyclic antidepressants.

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Jan 7
Mariely Padilla (Jan 07 2020 9:10AM) : I personally don't sleep at all at night and tend to sleep the whole afternoon , but for some reason i function perfectly fine . [Edited] more

Some studies have stated that not getting enough sleep isn’t good for our brain and we have the probability of 10% of dying faster then others who get enough sleep . When we get enough sleep does it mean our brain is well rested and depressive thoughts are more present ,then when we don’t sleep ?. I am currently running on two hours of sleep and i’m functioning better then when i do sleep , so perhaps it can be true.

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Jan 9
2020 Emma Wills (Jan 09 2020 1:26PM) : Answer to: When we get enough sleep does it mean our brain is well rested and depressive thoughts are more present ,then when we don’t sleep ? [Edited] more

Thank you for your comment. Often times, when we are sleep deprived our judgement is impaired. We perceive our performance levels to be higher when in reality our performance levels are lower. It is quite the contradicting of us. I too feel great when I get very little sleep like 2 hours (girl!, get some sleep though).
I did some extra digging to answer your question, if being well-resting allows for more depressive thoughts. This is how I understand it: when we pull all-nighters, our brains release higher levels of dopamine because of our cells (specifically, astrocytes) release more neurotransmitters (adenosine) for dopamine uptake while we are awake. So by going to sleep our cells would create less neurotransmitters and therefore less dopamine.
As for sleeping in the day and not at night. it was not effect on depressive thought and little (more long-term) effects on performance levels. You would sleep during the day because your melanin is releases then as opposed to at night.
P.S. I find that fact about mortality rates are higher in those not getting enough sleep so crazy Sleep is so interesting!)
https://www.tuck.com/sleep-depreviation-euphoria/

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Jan 13
Mariely Padilla (Jan 13 2020 12:01PM) : Thank you emma, for enlighten me on my question . more

" often times , when we are sleep deprived our judgement is impaired . we perceive our performance levels to be higher when in reality our performance levels are lower ".

I’ve heard about that before which i think it can be true our brain is telling us that we are fine but in reality is manipulating our body to hold on in order to push through the day . I didn’t know about the dopamine being released when we pull all -nighters, i think that’s why we are more active when we don’t sleep.(girl, we both need sleep ).

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Jan 13
2020 Emma Wills (Jan 13 2020 6:19PM) : Ya for sure. When I stay up late, I often am surprised at how much energy I have.
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Some clinicians are also experimenting with chronotherapy as a way to extend the short-lived anti-depressant effects of sleep deprivation. The treatment combines sleep deprivation with a timed sleep schedule and bright light therapy (a timed exposure to full-spectrum light at key times throughout the day).

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While this new meta-analysis does solidify a positive correlation between sleep deprivation and a reduction in depressive symptoms, this isn't a cue for sufferers to start randomly pulling all-nighters. Sleep deprivation can certainly assist in alleviating the effects of an acute depressive episode, but long-term sleep disruption is not recommended. More research still needs to be done to understand how sleep deprivation actually results in this positive effect, but there are hopes this could lead to the development of new drugs that can replicate the effect without forcing a patient to sacrifice a good night's sleep.

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The new study was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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Source: Penn Medicine

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DMU Timestamp: November 27, 2019 01:26

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