Treating insomnia could head off despair

Research we’re watching

Can treating insomnia prevent depression? A study published online Nov. 24, 2021, by JAMA Psychiatry found that it might.

The study included 291 people with insomnia. None of the participants (all ages 60 and older) had a history of major depression or any serious health problems at the start of the trial.

The participants were divided into two groups. One group received two of cognitive behavioral for insomnia (CBT-I), an approach that seeks to modify thoughts and habits to improve sleep. The other group spent the same amount of time receiving sleep education (SET), a program that aims to change environmental factors and behaviors that contribute to poor sleep. The researchers then followed both groups for three years to see who went on to develop major depression.

Of the 291 people enrolled in the study, 19 (12.2%) in the CBT-I group and 35 (25.9%) in the SET group were diagnosed with depression. The researchers also found that more people in the CBT-I group than in the SET group saw a lasting improvement in their insomnia. CBT-I participants who saw these sustained sleep improvements were 82.6% less likely to develop depression than the rest of the participants, including all of those in the SET group as well as those in the CBT-I group whose insomnia did not have lasting improvement .

The results support the use of CBT-I to treat insomnia and show a link between the and a lower risk of major depression.

Image: © kbeis/Getty Images

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