This New York Times article about a National Institute of Mental Health study of Insomnia and Depression has been big news this week.
What does it mean for us- The Nonsleepers? Let's break it down.
Curing insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of a full recovery, scientists are reporting.
What can we glean from this study to help with insomnia and sleep problems?
The study is the first of four on sleep and depression nearing completion, all financed by the National Institute of Mental Health. They are evaluating a type of talk therapy for insomnia that is cheap, relatively brief and usually effective, but not currently a part of standard treatment.
CHEAP, BRIEF and EFFECTIVE. Hell Yes.
“It would be an absolute boon to the field,” said Dr. Nada L. Stotland, professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago, who was not connected with the latest research. “It makes good common sense clinically,” she continued. “If you have a depression, you’re often awake all night, it’s extremely lonely, it’s dark, you’re aware every moment that the world around you is sleeping, every concern you have is magnified.”
Thanks for the acknowledgement, clearly both insomnia and depression suck.
Rachel Manber, a professor in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Stanford, whose 2008 pilot trial of insomnia therapy provided the rationale for larger studies. “But we now know that’s not the case,” she said. “The relationship is bidirectional — that insomnia can precede the depression.”
This goes against the grain of what most judgmental sleepers tell us…”If you weren't so depressed you would sleep fine, why don't you grow up and get your shit together.” ……..“Why don't you fuck off?”
The therapy that Dr. Manber, Dr. Carney and the other researchers are using is called cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I for short. The therapist teaches people to establish a regular wake-up time and stick to it; get out of bed during waking periods; avoid eating, reading, watching TV or similar activities in bed; and eliminate daytime napping.
Moving forward I will learn everything I can about this. Your first ACTIONABLE step you can taking starting tomorrw morning is to get out of bed at a set time and go for a walk. As covered in this blog post.
This kind of therapy is distinct from what is commonly known as sleep hygiene: exercising regularly, but not too close to bedtime, and avoiding coffee and too much alcohol in the evening. These healthful habits do not amount to an effective treatment for insomnia.
So half the sleep tips on blogs and twitter from sleep experts don't cure insomnia. Translation if you have insomnia and STRUGGLE to overcome it you are not crazy or damaged you just need more effective tools. THERE IS HOPE.
The aim is to reserve time in bed for only sleeping and — at least as important — to “curb this idea that sleeping requires effort, that it’s something you have to fix,” Dr. Carney said. “That’s when people get in trouble, when they begin to think they have to do something to get to sleep.”
I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this last quote. I'm not sure how often I have put NO effort into falling alseep and it has just happened, other than dozing off watching a movie on a Friday night.
In summary it seems there is a lot of hope that could come out of these studies for those of us who dread going to bed at night. The best place to start? Get up and out of bed at a set time. Its free and easy (in theory).