Monday, 19 April 2010

Why does sleep deprivation alleviate symptoms of depression?

Here's a link to an interesting article in the New York Times about depression and sleep that surprised me. A couple of months ago the neighbours upstairs had a new baby. He cries a lot, day and night, and you would think that the sleepless nights his crying causes could easily make anyone depressed. Indeed, postpartum depression can be remarkably common, affecting anything between 5-25% of new mothers in the first few months after giving birth. But if anything, according to this article by Terry Sejnowski, a renowned computational neurobiologist, an entire night without sleep can actually lift symptoms of depression in such afflicted women. Unfortunately, this is no miracle cure. You cannot escape the lack of concentration, irritability and memory loss inevitable after a night without sleep, and even the shortest nap can break the spell. Exactly how sleep deprivation alleviates symptoms of depression is still a still largely unknown, but one avenue of research scientists are currently exploring focuses on general sleep patterns with a particular focus on the rapid eye-movement (REM) stages of sleep. A link between REM sleep and depression has already been made: a common antidepressants blocks REM sleep and people with a genetic predisposition for entering REM sleep very early on in their sleep cycle are at a larger risk of becoming depressed. Thus, while staying awake for one night may not actually, at least not in a longer term, cure or even treat depression effectively, the alleviating effects of staying awake may give scientists an interesting direction for research into depression.


  1. Thank for providing nice information about Depression.
    We face many ups and downs from time to time in our life. However, we can’t tag them as depression; it is a normal part of life. But if the state of worthlessness or despair becomes a part and parcel of life, it might be appropriately called as depression. As someone has rightly said “…Depression is not sobbing and crying and giving vent, it is plain and simple reduction of feeling…People who keep stiff upper lips find that it’s damn hard to smile.” Even the state of depression has very correctly penned down by Elizabeth Wurtzel “That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.”

  2. Depression is worse it will kill all your will power. Depression symptoms should be washed is on one will power to maintain what he has gone through. solving the problem will help you fight

  3. It's a good article but it has several flaws that need to be pointed out. Postpartum depression is sadly not the only example, and in this case not the best example. Also the article says that 'insomnia' can be used to alleviate depression. This is grossly wrong. Scientists have been testing self induced 'sleep deprivation'. When it is self induced it isn't insomnia, Insomnia is the inherent inability to sleep, and for long or extended periods of time. The remedy being proposed here is that an individual stays up late for one night (Typically sleeping only in the evening), well into the morning. This alleviates the symptoms because sleep deprivation, (this is where the article was correct) is associated with slower frontal brain activity, which seems to correlate with depression in 'some' people, not all of them. Depression has several causes, and probably many more unknown ones. For the most part though, the important thing here is to NOT confuse this sleep deprivation remedy with insomnia, cause that would be incredibly wrong.