The new cure for depression: sleep?

Depression and insomnia have long been known to create a hellish downward spiral: Being depressed can wreak havoc on your ability to sleep, and not getting enough sleep can make your mood even worse. As anyone who’s been sleep deprived knows, it’s a lot harder to cope with even minor irritations when you’re running on empty.

Therapists often talk to clients about “sleep hygiene” — the set of basic practices that can regulate a person’s sleep patterns when applied consistently, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. A new study out of Toronto shows that many clients who were able to make changes to their sleep routines and conquer insomnia saw their depressive symptoms disappear.

Other similar studies are underway with results due out next year. If the outcome of this Toronto study is replicated, it could mean that cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) will become a more standardized part of depression treatment.

I’ve found that folks are not always willing or able to put sleep hygiene strategies into practice. In my experience, one of the least popular suggestions is avoiding screen time before bed. Giving up television, phones and computers for an hour or two is a sacrifice some people aren’t eager to make, especially if they don’t really think it will make a difference. Other people find it very difficult to stick with regular bedtimes and wake-up times.

The results of the Toronto study are compelling though. If you’re thinking twice about your bedtime routine, check out this Huffington Post piece, which describes CBT-I in detail. A better night’s sleep — and a better mood — might be just a few habit changes away.

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