Not being able to sleep adequately is linked to a depressed state and vice-versa. A new study found that the same link is also applicable to management because insomnia treatment with cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can ease depression symptoms.

Researchers from the Black Dog Institute tested an online CBT-based insomnia measure called Sleep Healthy Using The Internet (SHUTi) to see if it can alleviate depressive manifestations and prevent progress to major depression.

The study found that the intervention can treat both insomnia and depression.

"This is the first trial in the world to demonstrate that CBT-based insomnia treatment can also have a significant impact on the development of depression," says chief researcher Helen Christensen.

Insomnia is widely associated with mental health problems, either as a clinical sign or a causative factor. The inability to obtain sleep causes a person to experience stress and anxiety more often, which in turn causes depression and even dementia.

Statistics show that about 80 percent of people with diagnosed depression also experience insomnia. Approximately 40 percent of people suffering from insomnia may also have undiagnosed but apparent clinical symptoms of depression.

People are more likely to seek medical help for insomnia rather than for depression due to stigma associated with mental illness. The study may have implications for people who feel uneasy about going for a consultation.

The researchers performed SHUTi online in more than 500 individuals. They also included another group of 500 participants who were asked to join another program that contains general health information.

The results of the investigations show that the SHUTi group exhibited significant reductions in insomnia, anxiety and depression. The improvements persisted for at least six months.

The study implies that prevention is key. To prevent skin cancer, people use sunscreen prior to sun exposure, says Christensesn. SHUTi has the same concept such that using an insomnia treatment may help prevent depressive symptoms from progressing to serious illness.

SHUTi may also be helpful to people who are not able to recognize depression, but are aware that they have insomnia.

The treatment has the similar degree of effectiveness as face-to-face therapy, but had been delivered via a computer software, which enables widespread distribution of treatment via a more cost-effective strategy.

The study was published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal and was performed in collaboration with Australian National University, University of Sydney and the University of Virginia. 

Photo : Lloyd Morgan | Flickr

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