A new study says insomnia not only leaves you sleepy, it can sometimes lead to depression

Kick bad sleep habits out of bed; let sunlight set your body clock.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Researchers have known for years that depression can cause insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep. But brand-new research on the connection between sleep and depression finds that the opposite is true as well: Chronic insomnia may increase your risk of becoming clinically depressed.

THE DETAILS: In a study of sleep and depression published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, identified 555 people who suffered from chronic insomnia. Four years later, the researchers found that this group was up to five times more likely to be depressed than those without insomnia. It should be noted that no one in the group of insomniacs suffered from depression at the beginning of the study period, suggesting that it was indeed the insomnia that led to the depression, rather than the other way around.

WHAT IT MEANS: A third of Americans report occasional bouts of insomnia, while 10 to 15 percent suffer from a chronic form of the condition. The consequences are not limited to daytime drowsiness. Insomnia can affect your physical health, work performance, and quality of life. And as this study makes clear, the condition can increase your risk of depression. The good news is that the data points to an interesting new strategy for preventing depression and helping people who are depressed. “Our results suggest that recognition and treatment of insomnia by healthcare providers may be critical for preventing or mitigating the occurrence of depression,” write the study authors.

Read on for advice to help you get better sleep.

This study doesn't prove that insomnia directly causes depression; it may be an early marker, or the two conditions may be linked in some other way. But, along with the other effects of sleep loss, it's a good reason to take insomnia seriously. If you have chronic insomnia, meaning at least three nights a week for a month or longer, ask your doctor about behavioral therapies and/or medications that might work. And here some strategies you can try:

• Practice good sleep hygiene. While medication can help you sleep in the short term, many people can get lasting relief from insomnia by practicing good sleep hygiene—behaviors and habits that cue your body that it's time to shut down for the night. See our story on getting more sleep with skills, not pills.

• Stick to a sleep schedule. Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including on weekends. It may be tempting to sleep in on a Saturday, but a recent study found that doing so sets you up for a cumulative sleep deficit.

• Make the sun work for you. Sunlight can have a powerful effect on our sleep schedules, and not only when it's peeking through the blinds in the morning. Some people are particularly sensitive to changes in day length, or to the dip in sun exposure that most of us experience in wintertime. See our story on the healthy effects of bright light.

Read more on this @Rodale.com

Preventing depression in children and adolescents

From Offord Center for Child Studies

Behaviour and Mental Health Problems

In Short…

Universal programs aimed at preventing depression in children and adolescents are often adopted because they avoid the stigma associated with having a mental health problem. However, there is little or no evidence for their effectiveness.

Selective programs (those targeting high-risk children or teens) and indicated programs (targeting children/teens who already show signs of depression) are more effective, but they are more likely to treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety rather than prevent these symptoms from developing.

The Issue: Depression is a serious public health concern. It occurs in up to 3% of children and adolescents and the rate increases with age. These children have difficulty achieving in school and later in life.  Evidence shows that the earlier the first episode of depression, the greater the risk of repeated episodes that may become lifelong. So it is especially important that efforts are made to reduce the likelihood of children and teens becoming depressed.

The Research: This review assessed 30 studies of programs designed to prevent depression in children and teens. Three different types of programs were assessed: universal prevention programs such as those provided in schools to all students; selective interventions that target children or teens with an elevated risk for depression; and indicated programs that are used with those who already have symptoms of depression.

The Results: The authors found very little evidence that any of the program types prevent depression and anxiety.  The selective and indicated programs seem to improve existing symptoms, particularly in teenaged girls who have been exposed to parental divorce or loss or whose parents are depressed. 

The evidence suggests that selective and indicated programs may also be easier to use and more beneficial in the long term than universal programs.

The authors of the review suggest that treatment programs should focus on encouraging positive thinking patterns, how to get along with others, and how to deal with stress. There is also a need for more research on how age, gender, anxiety, and parental depression contribute to depression in children and adolescents so that prevention programs that are developmentally appropriate and gender and culturally sensitive can be developed.

*The preceding is a summary of: Horowitz JL, Garber J. The prevention of depressive symptoms in children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2006, 74(3): 401-415.

Download the full article as a PDF document here

Financial Support Provided by:

10 Tips for Preventing Postpartum Depression

By , About.com Guide

Updated May 04, 2009

About.com Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

After giving birth, about 30% to 80% of women will experience "baby blues," feeling mild depression, weepiness, irritability, fatigue and moodiness. These mood changes occur in response to the hormonal changes that follow childbirth and rapidly resolve within hours or days.

About 10% of women, though, will go through postpartum major depression (PMD), experiencing more severe, lasting symptoms. Good self-care and support from family and friends can help many women, although others will require treatment with medication and/or therapy.

Steps you can take to prevent postpartum depression include:

1. Carve Out Some 'Me Time'

When you're a new mom, it's very easy to become completely focused on the needs of your new baby and forget that you still have your own needs. It's important to set aside time for yourself, even if it's just a few quiet moments alone in the bathroom attending to your personal grooming. You'll feel better for it, and when you feel better, your baby will benefit from it too.

2. Make Time for Your Partner

With all the excitement and added responsibilities that come with a new baby, it's easy for parents to lose touch with each other. Even though you are now a family, remember it was your love for your spouse or significant other that brought your child into being. Nurture your relationship just like you nurture your baby. Your partner can be a big support to you, both in caring for the baby and caring for your own emotional needs.

3. Eat Well

It goes without saying that if you are breastfeeding you should eat well, but even if you aren't breastfeeding, you should feed yourself well. Nutritional deficiencies can cause depression symptoms and make you too tired to properly care for yourself and the baby.

4. Get Plenty of Omega-3s

Studies have shown a link between postpartum depression and a dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids. Also, an open trial over an 8-week period showed significant improvement in depression in postpartum women who took omega-3 supplements.

Although omega-3 fatty acids may be obtained by eating fatty fish - such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon - pregnant women should take fish oil supplements instead. Fish are likely to contain contaminants - like mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls - which are harmful to the developing fetus. Studies indicate that fish oil supplements are much less likely to contain these toxic substances, due to the purification that occurs during the manufacturing process.

5. Sleep as Much as Possible

When your baby requires frequent feedings, it can be difficult to get the rest you need. If you are tired, however, it's only natural that you are going to feel irritable and depressed. It is very important that you sleep whenever and as long as possible. Take naps when the baby is sleeping, and allow other family members to take over feeding duties, so you can get several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Breastfeeding? Pump milk ahead of time, so it's available for occasional bottle feedings.

@about.com: Click here to read the remaining 5 tips to help prevent Post-Partum Depression

Understanding Depression - Prevention

From WebMD.com

It's not always possible to prevent depression. But preventing depression is not the only way to avoid the kind of impact a depressive episode can have on your life. You can minimize the effect of depression by learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. Then you can alert your health care provider and get depression treatment when it's most helpful.

What is depression?

Depression is a condition that is defined by at least five of the following nine symptoms being present at the same time for at least two weeks in adults or one week in children or adolescents:

  • a depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
  • fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day -- a condition called anhedonia that can be indicated by a subjective account or by observations of significant others
  • recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • a sense of restlessness -- known as psychomotor agitation -- or being slowed down -- retardation
  • significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)

How can I prevent depression?

Although depression is a highly treatable condition, some forms of depression may not be preventable. That's because depression may be triggered by a chemical malfunctioning in the brain. However, the latest medical studies confirm that depression may often be alleviated or sometimes prevented with good health habits.

Proper diet, exercise, taking time out for fun and relaxation, not overworking, and saving time to do things you enjoy may work together to prevent a depressed mood.

@WebMD.com: Click here to read the full article @WebMD.com

Please visit often as we add new material.