Depression remains one of the most common forms of mental illness on the planet. It affects over 300 million people of all ages around the world, and, yet, fewer than half of those affected (and in many countries, fewer than 10%) receive treatment for it. Many countries and facilities lack resources and proper training to properly diagnose and treat these individuals. The cost of medication and therapy and the stigma of mental health disorders can also prevent patients and individuals from seeking treatment.
Depression is more than just the occasional feeling of sadness and normal fluctuations in mood. It can affect every aspect of a person’s life, including their personal relationships and their ability to earn a living. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. It can lead to suicide, physical illness, and other mental health disorders. In fact, it costs U.S. employers an estimated $100 billion each year, including $44 billion in lost productivity alone.
Nurses are no strangers to depression. According to the Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, nurses experience clinical depression at twice the rate of the general public. Affecting 9% of citizens, but 18% of nurses.
According to a recent study from Tufts University, sleep deprivation can help providers learn more about depression and how to treat it.
How Sleep Deprivation Eases Depression
As a nurse, you’re probably all too familiar with sleep deprivation. Long hours on the floor, nursing school and back-to-back shifts can easily take a toll on your ability to get things done. You may feel fatigued, irritable, or just less productive when you’re running low on sleep. When the body and brain is tired, it’s been shown that the brain releases dopamine to combat negative effects on the body, as such having a more positive effect.
However, sleep deprivation may provide clues to treating depression. Sleep deprivation is effective when it comes to treating depression, but the effects usually only last until the person falls asleep. When they wake up, symptoms of depression are likely to return. However, scientists were anxious to learn more about this phenomenon.
The team at Tufts University identified glia, also known as glial cells or neuroglia, non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system, as an essential part of the equation. Astrocytes, a star-shaped type of glial cell, regulate the brain chemicals that make us feel sleepy. When we’re awake, astrocytes release adenosine, a neurotransmitter, into the brain. As adenosine builds up in our system, it creates what’s known as “sleep pressure,” leading to a feeling of sleepiness, as well as memory and attention impairments. Adenosine causes this pressure by binding to adenosine receptors on the outside of neurons. As this process continues, we feel more pressure to sleep.
To study sleep deprivation and its effect on depression, scientists administered three doses of adenosine receptors to mice with depressive like symptoms, which mimicked the feeling of sleep deprivation. While the mice slept normally, their mood and behavior improved after 12 hours. The antidepressant effects of sleep deprivation lasted for a full 48 hours.
A Breakthrough for Treatment?
Denying yourself sleep isn’t a sustainable way to fight depression, but this study may lead to a breakthrough in antidepressant treatment. Based on the results of the study, adenosine buildup can help treat depression without the unwanted side effects of not going to bed. The adenosine buildup took just 12 hours to kick in, which is must faster than traditional antidepressant medications, which may take 6 to 8 weeks to be effective.
This breakthrough is changing the way doctors look at depression and sleep deprivation. Scientists will likely focus on adenosine buildup as they continue exploring and developing new treatment methods for depression.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t wait until it’s too late. Depression can affect your performance on the job, physical and mental health, and your relationships. Nursing can be a difficult job where emotions and tensions can run high. Depression also tends to be more common in women than men.
Talk to a healthcare provider about your struggles with depression and find a solution that works for you, such as medication, therapy or natural mood enhancers like exercise. Don’t let stigma prevent you from leading a healthy lifestyle. Get back to work and start feeling like your old self by finding a suitable method for managing your depression.
Have you tried fewer hours sleep and woken to feel more sprightly in the mornings? Let us know.