Let’s say you grow up in a family of champion sleepers, yourself included. At college, you sail through rowdy dormitory life sleeping like a log. Job interviews, stressful to some, don’t faze you. By 27, you’ve landed a good job and in a few years earned enough for a down payment on a house. Sleep is still dependable and stays that way for a decade.
Then, coinciding with a move and the birth of a second child, you find yourself wide awake at your normal bedtime, staring at walls. Soon this becomes the rule rather than the exception. Before you know it you’ve developed chronic insomnia. How can sleep go from good to bad so quickly?
About 44% of people with insomnia also have a mental illness such as depression or generalized anxiety. So it’s no surprise that in healthy female college students there’s a relationship between sleep and mood, or affect.
But just what that relationship is—and how normal variations in sleep and affect might morph into insomnia and/or a mood disorder—hasn’t been established. Here’s what researchers at Kent State University and Henry Ford Hospital have found out.
Last week Dan wrote to Ask The Savvy Insomniac with questions about cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Dan has bipolar disorder, and because of this diagnosis, his sleep doctor had reservations about him undergoing CBT-I.
So Dan tried a modified version for 2 weeks. His sleep did not improve. He was wondering if he would have to use sleeping pills and if he should continue with CBT-I on his own.
A woman attending a talk I gave on insomnia was worried about developing Alzheimer’s because she wasn’t getting enough sleep.
“Sometimes I sleep only 4 hours a night,” she said, “and I’m really lucky when I get 5.”
There’s a lot of talk these days about the health risks that accumulate if we sleep less than 7 or 8 hours a night. But reports that appear in the popular media can make the risks sound greater than they actually are.
Insomnia doesn’t often get front-page coverage, but it did on Tuesday. Benedict Carey of The New York Times reported on a study of people under treatment for depression. The results showed that nearly twice as many subjects were cured of depression when—in addition to taking an antidepressant or a pill placebo—they received cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia.
It’s time to reassess the relationship between insomnia and depression.
“Why write about insomnia?” is a question I’m often asked when I tell people about my book. “Do you have it yourself?”
“Since childhood,” I reply. But I might not have written a book about insomnia if I hadn’t read Andrew Solomon’s book, The Noonday Demon.
Think back, if you suffer from both depression and insomnia. Which came first?
For years, the thinking on the subject was that depression gave rise to sleep problems, but the story is different today. It looks more and more like chronic insomnia is a way station to depression.