Fixed link between poor sleep and depression recognized

How does poor sleep affect depression?

For a long time, experts have suspected a connection between poor sleep and the development of depression. Now researchers have discovered a neural mechanism that is responsible for such a connection. This discovery could improve the treatment of depression in the future.

In their current study, scientists from the University of Warwick and the Oxford Center for Computational Neuroscience discovered the mechanism behind the connection between poor sleep and the development of dementia. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "JAMA Psychiatry".

Study included data from more than 9,700 participants

The experts found a strong connection between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (responsible for short-term memory), the precuneus (associated with self-conceptions) and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (associated with negative emotions). Analysis of the records of 9,735 people with depressive illness showed that there is increased activity between these brain regions in people who also report sleep disorders. This is a crucial discovery, the scientists emphasize.

Results will have an impact on the treatment of depression

The relationship between depression and sleep was observed more than a hundred years ago, but now the underlying neuronal mechanisms have been identified for the first time, explains study author Jianfeng Feng from the University of Warwick. These results provide a neural basis for understanding how depression relates to poor sleep quality, and this in turn has implications for treating depression and improving sleep quality, the expert adds.

Sleep problems and depression are linked

The researchers hypothesized that this brain activity could be a sign that negative emotions are present in the head, and this partly explains why sleep problems and depression problems are often related. People who have depression problems are also more likely to suffer from insomnia or find it difficult to fall asleep. On the other hand, people with insomnia are also at higher risk of depression and anxiety. While this particular study found strong neural connections in the association of depressive problems with poor sleep quality, and not vice versa, the effects in general can work in both directions, the scientists speculate.

More research is needed

More research is now needed to find out what role the lateral orbitofrontal cortex plays. Targeted treatment of this part of the brain could lead to major advances, the researchers speculate. The results of the study may allow scientists to find ways to help people with depression get a better night's sleep. In today's world, poor sleep and sleep deprivation have become a common problem that affects more than a third of the world's population due to longer hours, nightly activity, and increasing dependence on electronics, study author Feng explains. (as)

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