One of the common symptoms of depression is difficulty sleeping. Now a new study suggests that curing insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of full recovery. The New York Times reports that the trial conducted at Ryerson University “found that 87% of patients who resolved their insomnia in four biweekly talk therapy sessions saw their depression symptoms dissolve after eight weeks of treatment, either with an antidepressant drug or a placebo pill–almost twice the rate those who could not shake insomnia.”
The therapy used to treat insomnia was cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The therapist works with clients to help them establish optimal sleep habits. Below are some specific behavioral changes that CBT promotes:
Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-time. Our bodies get used to going to bed and getting up at certain times. Disrupting this internal rhythm, by excessive napping, staying up late, or sleeping in is a recipe for insomnia.
Avoid caffeine after noon. The stimulatory effects of caffeine stay in your system several hours after intake.
Get regular exercise. Studies show that exercise improves sleep quality.
Keep your bedroom cool. Our bodies’ temperature decreases when we sleep. A cool sleep environment mimics this activity.
Take time to calm your mind before bed. Dedicate 30-60 minutes before bedtime to something that relaxes you. A warm bath, a pleasurable novel, meditation, etc. Doing this will not only help you get to sleep, but improve your sleep quality. Avoid bright lights from your computer, phone, or television since this simulates the activating effect of the sun.
Don’t clock-watch. If you get up during the night, avoid looking at what time it is. This will likely cause anxiety about how much time you have left to get the sleep you need. Revving up your system with such thoughts will make it even harder to get back to sleep. So hide your alarm clock in a drawer or cover it with a book.
Limit alcohol before bedtime. Although alcohol may help you get to sleep, it impairs sleep quality and makes you more likely to wake up during the night.
Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
Use your bed only for sleep and sex. You want to condition your mind to associate your bed with sleep, not reading, thinking, talking, and other activities.
If you wake up during the night and can’t go back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Don’t try to fight your way back into unconsciousness.
Keep a Sleep Journal. Write down what time you go to bed every night, what time you tried to fall asleep, how long it took, how many awakenings you had, and what time you woke up. Keeping track of this information will allow you to monitor your progress and understand what factors help you get the sleep you need.