Sleep Deprivation and Long-Term Health
Lack of sleep has long been considered a potential risk factor for mood disorders. Older people with depression, who also experience persistent and worsening sleep disturbances, are at much higher risk of remaining depressed.
In a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published online in the journal Sleep, analyzed data from almost 600 people over 60 years old who visited primary care centers in the Northeast US. All patients met clinical criteria for major or minor depression at the outset of the study.
The researchers found that those with a pattern of worsening insomnia symptoms over the following year had almost 30 times the odds of having a diagnosis of major depression at the end of that year, compared to patients whose sleep had improved during that year. The patients with worsening insomnia also were much more likely to have a diagnosis of minor depression. Additionally, they were more likely to report suicidal ideation at the end of the year. These results suggest that, in older adults with depression, insomnia symptoms offer an important clue to their risks for persistent depression and suicidal ideation.
These results only further the deep body of science indicating the positive effects on our health during our life when we are able to sleep well and overcome persistent sleep problems including sleep deprivation and insomnia.