A depression treatment that doesn’t require meds

A lack of zzz’s can actually reduce depression symptoms.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found sleep deprivation improved symptoms of depression within 24 hours. Their findings, the first meta-analysis on the subject in nearly 30 years, were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Previous studies have shown sleep deprivation improved depression symptoms for 40 to 60 percent of participants overall.

“These studies in our analysis show that sleep deprivation is effective for many populations,” said lead author Elaine Boland, PhD, a clinical associate and research psychologist at the Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, in a press release. “Regardless of how the response was quantified, how the sleep deprivation was delivered, or the type of depression the subject was experiencing, we found a nearly equivalent response rate.”

They found partial sleep deprivation—sleep for three to four hours followed by forced wakefulness for 20-21 hours—was as effective as total sleep deprivation, being awake for 36 hours. Sleep deprivation was found to be clinically effective within 24 hours. Medication did not significantly affect the results, though antidepressants are the most common treatment for depression and typically take weeks or months to take effect.

After reviewing more than 2,000 studies, the team analyzed 66 studies over a 36-year period to see how the type and timing of sleep deprivation, episodes, medication status, age and gender of participants affected people with depression. 

Topics: Clinical