Depression and Sleep

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to treating depression that is increasingly popular due to its effectiveness and lack of side effects. The essential features of CBT for depression include cognitive restructuring, a technique that targets the thoughts that lead to depressive feelings, and behavioral activation, which targets behavior that may perpetuate depression. CBT may be used to treat insomnia and depression at the same time. Click here for the components of CBT for insomnia.

There are a number of different medications used to treat insomnia, and your physician will work with you to determine which is best for you. Some of the most common drug treatments for depression are:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – SSRIs effectively improve mood in many patients, but they may also cause or worsen insomnia.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants – tricyclic antidepressants are typically sedating, but they may also carry serious side effects such as high blood pressure.
  • Mood stabilizing anticonvulsants and lithium – these drugs are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder.

In addition to the above treatment options, patients who suffer from SAD may benefit from bright light therapy. Light therapy may involve exposure to natural light (light from the sun) or treatment with a light box. Light therapy is considered safe, but little evidence exists to support its effectiveness at treating SAD or other forms of depression. Consult your physician before beginning any form of light therapy, as exposure to the sun or bright light may cause negative effects.

Some individuals show significant improvements in depression symptoms following a night of partial or complete sleep deprivation, leading physicians to consider using sleep deprivation as an intervention. However, such improvements are unreliable and are reversed after a night of normal sleep, making sleep deprivation an impractical therapeutic choice for depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation carries the potential for serious side effects such as extreme sleepiness, cognitive impairment and an increased risk of injury or traffic accidents.

In preparation for a visit to a health professional for depression evaluation and treatment, it is helpful to keep track of your mood and to use a sleep diary for a period of two weeks.