This study says your parent’s insomnia can make them depressed

Beware of your parents' sleep pattern ladies, because this study has just established a link between insomnia and depression in the elderly.
Depression in older people
Don't let your elders feel left out. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
ANI Updated: 17 May 2021, 15:46 pm IST
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Do your parents find it hard to sleep at night? Well, it might seem like they have joined the night owl club, but their insomnia has major mental health implications. Their persistently continuing insomnia symptoms can make them more likely to experience depression. 

Lack of sleep has long been considered a potential risk factor for mood disorders. And now according to a new study, older people with depression, who also experience persistent and worsening sleep disturbances, are at much higher risk of remaining depressed.

The study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published online in the journal Sleep, analysed 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 impact of insomnia on depression
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.

insomnia and depression
An irregular sleeping pattern can be bad for your parents. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Compared to patients whose sleep improved, the study found that those with insomnia symptoms that persisted but did not worsen also were more likely to have persistent major or minor depression, but their risk was not as high as patients with worsening sleep.

“These results suggest that, among older adults with depression, insomnia symptoms offer an important clue to their risks for persistent depression and suicidal ideation,” said study senior author Adam Spira, PhD, a professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School.

Also, Read: Tired of tossing and turning in bed? It’s time to try these 5 yoga poses for sound sleep

What are the bigger mental health implications of it?
In an earlier study of older adults living in low- and middle-income countries, Spira, Gallo, and colleagues found that older adults reporting insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality were more likely to report having suicidal thoughts and that those with insomnia symptoms were more likely to report a prior suicide attempt.

In their new analysis, the researchers examined data from sleep and mental health study conducted from May 1999 to August 2001, covering older adults at 20 primary care centers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

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“There otherwise hasn’t been much research on insomnia and depression in older adults in primary care settings–even though primary care is where most people with depression are treated,” Spira said.

According to the analysis of the study, compared to the patients whose sleep had improved, those with worsening sleep disturbances had 28.6 times the odds of having a diagnosis of major depression at the end of the year–as opposed to no longer having a depression diagnosis.

The patients whose sleep worsened also had 11.9 times the odds of having a diagnosis of minor depression at the end of the year and were 10 % more likely to report having suicidal thoughts at the end of the year.

The takeaway
“We can’t say that the sleep disturbances we’re seeing are necessarily causing the poor depression outcomes but the results suggest that older adults who are being treated for depression and whose sleep problems are persistent or worsening need further clinical attention,” Spira shared. 

So, ladies make sure that you take care of your parent’s sleep pattern. Help them induce a healthy sleep cycle using tools like calming environment and lighter dinner t put them to sleep at night. Also, communicate the mental health implications of their lack of sleep so they get back into a healthy sleep cycle themselves.

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