Beat Depression and End Insomnia

Learn more about depression and insomnia with strategies for beating both.

By Ellen Michaud with Julie Bain from Sleep to Be Sexy Smart and Slim

Stay out all night. But only once, and only with your doctor’s approval and support. This is a bit tricky, since it can make depression worse. But the odd thing is that depriving yourself of sleep for one night — and no more than that — has been shown to lift depression for as long as a month. Researchers don’t know how it works, but they suspect that one night of sleep deprivation may reset your sleep clock.

Take care of business. In London, researchers at King’s College have spent three decades looking into the effect of workloads, deadlines, and other job-related stressors on nearly a thousand young working adults. They’ve found that these types of jobs demand nearly double the risk of depression in women.

If you find yourself getting depressed at the thought of going in to work because of the workload or time demands, talk to your employer and try to negotiate a saner workload, more realistic deadlines, or assistance from other colleagues. If your boss isn’t interested, put the word out to friends: You’re looking for a new job.

A woman’s best friend, too. When people without pets played with a dog for just a few minutes a day as part of a University of Missouri study, levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and oxytocin — both mood elevators — rose. You don’t have to own a dog to get these benefits, either. Volunteer at an animal shelter to walk a dog, or just pet your neighbor’s whenever it trots by.

Eat a bowl of fortified cereal every day. Or take a multivitamin. Either will provide you with 400 micrograms of folate, a B vitamin that is known to lift depression. Folate and other vitamins help maintain nerve and blood cells, which are used in brain reactions and are essential for the production and function of a number of mood-boosting brain chemicals. And a study published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry found that folate actually helps enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants.

Stay on meds. Depressive episodes tend to recur. To reduce the risk of relapse, doctors recommend that you stay on medication for six months to a year even though you may be feeling normal again.

Stay alert. Insomnia can herald the return of depression before you’re even aware of it. If you start having sleep problems again, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Early detection and treatment can minimize its effect on your life — and even head it off.

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