Caring Currents

Depressed? Try Sleeping It Off

Last updated: Apr 07, 2008

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Does your parent have trouble sleeping at night? If she's depressed, insomnia may actually make it harder for her to recover from depression.

A study published in this month's issue of the journal Sleep reveals that insomnia may prolong depression in people 60 years of age or older. Researchers found that patients with persistent insomnia were significantly more likely to remain depressed than those without insomnia. And among those with insomnia, depression was more likely to linger in patients who received standard care for depression than in those who received "enhanced care," which included education about depression and problem-focused therapy.

It's true that sleep patterns change as people age, but insomnia isn't part of normal aging. Lack of sleep can lead to a host of problems besides depression, including trouble with attention and memory, excessive sleepiness during the day, and more nighttime falls. Sleep disorders are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

These tips might help your parent sleep better at night:

  • Go to sleep at the same time each night.
  • Keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and slightly cool.
  • Limit daytime naps to less than an hour and no later than 3 pm.
  • Reserve the bed for nighttime sleep only.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Engage in relaxing activities before bedtime, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of light reading.

If your parent still has trouble sleeping, she should ask her doctor for a referral to a sleep medicine specialist. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine's sleep center locator is a great way to find an accredited sleep center near her home.

Image by flickr user sunshinecity used under the Creative Commons attribution license.