AUG 02, 2018 06:07 AM PDT

The Connection Between Depression and Poor Sleep

The connection between sleep and depression has been explored in several studies. When we sleep, the brain recharges in many ways. Short-term memories, such as events that happened during the day are either culled from the memory banks or converted into long-term memories and stored in the hippocampus.

The brain has to function correctly to do this, as well as to control emotions and negative feelings. Part of the problem many patients with depression report is getting "stuck" on a series of negative thoughts. This results in depressive thoughts and very often, poor sleep. In a 2008 study, over 75% of patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder reported significant trouble sleeping.

A collaboration of scientists from the University of Warwick in the UK and Fudan University in China found that in patients with depression there is a neural link between three specific areas of the brain. The connectivity issues between these areas are responsible for poor sleep quality, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Without proper rest, depression gets worse, but it's the depression and the neural linking of these areas that cause the poor sleep cycles.

The study analyzed data from roughly 10,000 people. Brain scans of patients with depression showed an abnormal amount of connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is where short-term memory is handled, the precuneus where thoughts of self are processed, and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex which is where negative thoughts often get "stuck." These underpinnings of the mechanism that occurs in depression were linked together by analyzing research studies.

Professor Jianfeng Feng, from the University of Warwick's Department of Computer Science, was a co-author on the study. He explained, "The understanding that we develop here is consistent with areas of the brain involved in short-term memory (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex), the self (precuneus), and negative emotion (the lateral orbitofrontal cortex) being highly connected in depression, and that this results in increased ruminating thoughts which are at least part of the mechanism that impairs sleep quality."

Professor Edmund Rolls is a computational neuroscientist at Warwick and also worked on the study. He talked about the implications for this new knowledge, stating, "This study may also have implications for a deeper understanding of depression. This important cross-validation with participants from the USA provides support for the theory that the lateral orbitofrontal cortex is a key brain area that might be targeted in the search for treatments for depression."

Since sleep deprivation has been shown to have numerous adverse effects on productivity, mood, appetite, and emotional well-being, finding the connection in the brain between sleep and depression could lead to better treatments for patients with major depressive disorder. Poor sleep and depression impact more than one-third of the world's population said Rolls, so it could quickly become a severe public health issue. The study is published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. Check out the video below to hear more about the work.

Sources: University of Warwick  JAMA Psychiatry UPI

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2019
Can We Inherit PTSD from Our Parents?
We often think of the negative byproduct of trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a personal experience. But research now suggests that PTSD ma...
SEP 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2019
Treating Psychosis by Targeting a Genetic Mutation
It may one day be possible to treat psychiatric disorders with therapy that targets genetic mutations, which was done in a recent study....
SEP 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2019
Anorexia is Caused by Genetics and Gut Bacteria
Although usually considered a purely psychiatric disorder, recent research has uncovered that anorexia nervosa may have other underlying causes. From genet...
SEP 20, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
SEP 20, 2019
Can LSD Treat Addiction?
Modern medicine commonly refers to addiction as a brain disease caused by drugs and other negative stimuli. However, evidence is surmounting that addiction...
SEP 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 20, 2019
New drug to treat opioid use disorder during pregnancy is favorable for mom, and baby
On average, a baby is born in withdrawal from opioids every 15 minutes in the U.S., according to recent research. Opioid use during pregnancy can result in...
SEP 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2019
The Genetic Reasons Why Some People Need Less Sleep
Typically, people need between seven and eight hours of sleep per night to function properly. In  fact, reducing sleep by just one or two hours for a ...
Loading Comments...