Lack of Sleep Causes Anxiety, Depression

Treating sleep problems can improve mood quickly

(Melina Delkic, NEWSWEEK) Researchers have found that difficulty sleeping can cause or worsen depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Poor sleep, one of the most common symptoms of depression, but is often ‘given a low priority’ by the medical community. Photo by DieterRobbins (Pixabay)

But there’s a silver lining: Treating those sleep problems can quickly and significantly improve mental health disorders.

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“You look back and think, ‘How do we not give insomnia the attention it deserved?’” reflected Paul Harrison, a co-author of the study and the associate head of research in Oxford University’s psychiatry department. Poor sleep, one of the most common symptoms of depression, “may precede its onset,” he said. It’s a new realization in the field of psychiatry.

In the treatment of mental health disorders, sleep problems have generally been “given a low priority,” read the study, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

A lack of sleep is seen as “a symptom, consequence, or non-specific epiphenomenon of the disorders,” read the study. But the researchers—42 of them, hailing from Oxford University, Liverpool University, Glasgow University and others—found that treating and improving sleep problems led to “improvements in depression, and improvements in anxiety, prodromal symptoms, nightmares, psychological wellbeing, and functioning, and all these improvements were maintained over time.”

The study is based on college students—“an age group in the greatest risk of developing anxiety and depression,” Harrison said.

At Georgetown University, a popular, student-produced video examining the school’s stress culture, called “Sleep When You’re Dead,” made headlines in 2014. “What happens to students when a campus culture glorifies stress and expects perfection?” read the video’s description. Displayed with permission from NEWSWEEK via Repubhub. 

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