It can take weeks for a person to respond to anti-depressant, and often, responses are not good –around 1/3 people. We need something better. There a report of a new study by the University of Michigan out today on the response s of patients newly prescribed anti-depressants and who were allocated either six or eight hours in bed [1]. A previous study had showed that a single night of sleep deprivation (5 hours sleep) had improved depression symptoms, and the University had expected to find that depression reduced in the group which had only six hours sleep. Not so. Todd Arnedt, associate Professor at the University of Michigan:

“Surprisingly, the group who spent the full eight hours in bed each night showed greater improvements on all fronts. The subjects were almost twice as likely to achieve symptom remission after the full eight weeks of antidepressant treatment — 63 percent compared with 33 percent in the six-hour group. They also experienced a faster response to treatment.

“This is the first study to demonstrate that adequate sleep might accelerate and augment antidepressant treatment response,” 

There’s a high correlation between depression and sleep problems: most people who are depressed have difficulty sleeping – their sleep is often light, lacking slow wave deep sleep, and interrupted.[2] Generally, they get less deep sleep than people who are not depressed, but some experience hypersomnia. In fact the correlation between depression and sleep issues is so high that some doctors suggest that a diagnosis of depression in the absence of sleep issues is questionable. And insomnia without depression is considered a risk factor for the later development of depression.

Sleep medication doesn’t necessarily help. Sleeping pills may “damp down” the activity of the brain rather than enhancing or encouraging the deep sleep which is needed for rest and recovery, impairing deep slow wave sleep even though overall, length of sleep may be extended.

Our own experience with the Zeez Sleep Pebble has been that as users sleep quality improves, so does their mood. In the words of one user, “my depressions magically lifted”. We ask our users to complete surveys which reflect the Pittsbergh Sleep Index and Epworth Sleepiness scale – we intend to ask a group to also complete the Becks Depression Scale, to see if we can quantify effects on mood. But these surveys will not be independent – and that would make a difference.

[1] . Todd Arnedt, Leslie M. Swanson, Richard R. Dopp, Holli S. Bertram, Ann J. Mooney, Edward D. Huntley, Robert F. Hoffmann, Roseanne Armitage. Effects of Restricted Time in Bed on Antidepressant Treatment Response. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2016; DOI: 10.4088/JCP.15m09879