More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Insomnia linked to causing depression
July 26, 2005

TORONTO (MRI) - Sleep disorders have long been cited as a symptom of depression, but new research suggests insomnia may in fact lead to depression.

A study conducted at the University of Rochester's Sleep and Neurophysiology Research laboratory concluded that depressed seniors grappling with insomnia were 17 times more likely to continue being depressed a year later than those without insomnia.

A second study at the clinic found that seniors who weren't depressed, but suffered from insomnia, were six times more likely to be depressed at some point in their lives than seniors who were not insomniacs.

"What we know is that insomnia is a risk factor for depression, it precedes depression and it seems to make depression resistant to treatment," said lab director Dr. Michael Perlis.

The research was recently presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Colorado.

The first study examined more than 1,800 people over the age of 65 who had been diagnosed with severe or mild depression. The second study looked at 147 people over the age of 60 who did not have mental illness prior to the study. Of these patients, 34 had persistent insomnia and 47 had a milder form of insomnia.

In the second study, researchers found that 12 of these patients - 10 of whom were women - experienced new-onset depression during the year of the study, suggesting that chronic sleeplessness may trigger a higher risk of depression.

"These findings suggest that persistent insomnia may be both a precipitating and perpetuating factor of new onset and recurring depression (MDD)," the study concludes.

The investigators did not have an explanation regarding why there was a prevalence of depression-related insomnia among women. Results indicate patients with persistent insomnia who tend to wake up during the night are most likely to develop depression.

The researchers said more studies are needed to explore the links between insomnia and depression, and that the sample in these studies was too small to render a meaningful conclusion.

Statistics show that about 40% of Canadian seniors struggle with sleep difficulties, and that 10% to 15% exhibit depressive symptoms.
Interesting article. One of my female clients experiences severe depression and medications have been less effective. I wonder if this could be the issue? Thank you.


Is the distinction still made that early morning awakening is a symptom of depression while difficulty to fall asleep suggests heightened anxiety?
Early morning awakening seems to be a symptom of both depression and anxiety, which is the same for difficulty falling asleep.

For those who experience anxiety it is important that once they are in bed that they do not sit up fast but instead role out of bed if possible. Anxiety can occur due to this orthostatic reflex which involves a sudden burst of norepinephrine, which then increases the level of anxiety. There are also studies linking sleep problems with thyroid dysfunction.


There are also studies linking sleep problems with thyroid dysfunction.

Thanks for the additional information, Bill! Would sleep dysfunction be linked to hypo or hyper thyroidism?
Hi TSOW...the answer to your question is yes... Hypothyroidism can have symptoms relative to depression and thus, a person could have difficulty sleeping. But with hyper: it involves both insomnia and anxiety...sort of a double whammy.
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