Insomnia and Depression, the Two Best Friends: Dr. Michael Perlis
Sleep disorders and unipolar depression make the strongest of friends. Psychology Today reports that about 80% of people suffering from depression, experience insomnia. A person is known to suffer from insomnia, when they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Early morning awakening and oversleeping are some of the most telling symptoms of depression.
Insomnia is not just a symptom of depression, lack of proper restful sleep has been known to trigger mood disorders.
Sleep researcher Michael Perlis, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Rochester and director of the behavioral sleep medicine service, is of the opinion that insomnia may be an early indication of depression.
Sleep disorder is a complex mix of chemistry and behavior, and it is this disordered sleep, which sets into motion the symptoms of depression.
So do people who suffer from depression get less sleep? More than less sleep, it is actually sleep which is not restful in nature. A normal sleep cycle has various phases, which include periods of deepening relaxing sleep and dream sleep. If one maps the brain electronically during this point of time, then it has been observed that during relaxing sleep, there are slow waves of the brain as compared to when a person is dreaming, which also involves rapid eye movement.
Depression makes a person lapse more quickly into REM sleep. Perlis says,
As if they were in a hurry to get to the highly emotionally charged activity. For some reason, there is a lot of pressure to get into it. There’s something about dreaming that is meaningful in depression. But it is not clear what. It certainly looks like REM sleep represents an abnormality in the neurobiological machinery of dreaming. But there is still something wrong with the way that the depressed dream; the function of dreaming is undermined.
One of the important functions of REM sleep is the consolidation of memory. But, in depressed patients, the memories, which the REM sleep consolidates, is not right. So, what could possibly not be right? It is believed that it is the powerful activation of REM sleep, which is making the depressed more prone to consolidating memory of unpleasant and sad instances of life.
As per Perlis behavioral treatment specifically aimed at curbing the insomnia of depression is what is the imperative need. He says,
Maybe we can protect people by paying attention to their insomnia. If it is an unleashing factor, perhaps if we get rid of the insomnia we can get rid of the depression risk.