Depression and insomnia are linked to each other.

It’s a well-known fact that people who do not get sufficient sleep are more predisposed to clinical depression than those who get enough rest during the night.

A new study, however, shows that a very simple adjustment in one’s sleeping schedule could contribute to massive mental health improvements.

Some people may think that switching a sleep/awake schedule is very difficult or even impossible. Researchers, however, managed to prove that just three weeks are required to produce a sustainable and highly beneficial adjustment.

If you happen to be a night owl, here’s what you need to do in order to make some adjustments to your sleep schedule for better mental health.

Sleeping Schedule Adjustments Lead to Massive Improvements

University of Birmingham researchers presented a new study according to which small adjustments in the sleeping schedules of night owls can contribute to a reduction in the risk of depression.

Night owls are those people who remain awake when the rest of the world is sleeping. These people have a circadian rhythm that’s altered. They’re more productive during the night and they tend to have extreme sleeping and waking up habits.

According to researchers, night owls can shift their circadian rhythm over the course of three weeks. No medications or other interventions are required to accomplish the goal.

The study was presented in Sleep Medicine journal and it showed that participants in the experiment were capable of bringing forward their sleep/wake timing by two hours. This switch did not have a negative effect on sleep duration or quality. The so-called night owls also reported decreased feelings of depression and stress and a reduction in daytime sleepiness.

Study participants had an average bedtime of 2:30am and their average wake up time was 10:15am.

How did the researchers help these people change?

Participants in the experiment were asked several things over the course of three weeks. For a start, they had to start waking up two to three hours before their usual wake up time. They were also asked to start going to bed two to three hours before their usual end of the day.

Sleeping and wake times were kept fixed over the course of the three weeks. In addition, the volunteers were asked to have breakfast as soon as they woke up. They also needed to eat lunch at the same time each day and to refrain from having the final meal of the day after 7pm.

These simple steps proved to be effective in switching circadian rhythms over the course of three weeks. The term circadian rhythm refers to a 24-hour internal clock we all have. This clock makes us feel alert at certain times and sleepy at others. Sometimes called the sleep/wake cycle, the circadian rhythm has an impact on nearly every aspect of life.

The aim of the study we’ve talked about in this section was to see just how difficult it was to achieve a circadian rhythm adjustment. At the same time, the researchers were happy to find out that the work they did with the night owl volunteers also helped to reduce depression and stress.

The Importance of Sleep for Better Mental Health

Sleep and mental health share a close connection.

In today’s hectic world, many adults are sleep deprived. The number has grown significantly over the past few decades and mental health professionals like psychiatrists and psychologists in Singapore believe that insomnia and poor sleep quality are two factors contributing to the growing prominence of mental health problems.

Originally, insomnia was seen as a symptom of mental health disorders. Eventually, psychiatrists started seeing as one of the root causes of various problems, including serious issues like clinical depression.

Studies show that the different types of sleep (light sleep, deep sleep, REM) all play a role in restoring mental health.

Deep sleep is so powerful that it alters brain function and it can even strengthen the functioning of the immune system. REM sleep, the part of the sleep cycle during which we dream, enhances learning and memory.

Scientists are still uncertain of all the mechanisms in which sleep improves mental health. They have found out, however, that sleep disturbances affect levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones. Thus, they can impair brain function and even affect emotional regulation.

There are more than 70 types of recognised sleep disorders. Insomnia, sleep apnoea and narcolepsy are the most common ones. All of these sleep issues increase the risk of various mental health problems, including depression.

According to studies, anywhere between 65 and 90 per cent of the adults diagnosed with depression experience some kind of sleeping disorder. The same applies to 90 per cent of the children diagnosed with clinical depression, a Harvard report suggests.

While insomnia and other sleep disorders increase the risk of developing depression they also affect patient outcomes when treatment is initiated. Depressed patients who continue experiencing insomnia after the initiation of treatment are less likely to respond positively to the therapeutic approach than those who get enough sleep.

Sleep disorders have been linked to a higher risk of various other mental health problems like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and ADHD.

As you can see, lifestyle changes could establish the foundation of a successful depression treatment program.

Seeking professional assistance is going to be as important as sufficient sleep.

Clinical depression is a very serious problem that requires a thorough, holistic therapeutic approach. Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic offers such opportunities to help those going through depression.

Our depression treatment targets all of the factors that could be contributing to the problem. We employ psychotherapy, pharmacological therapy and social help to reduce the stress burden and offer holistic depression management.

If you believe that you’re exhibiting the most common depression symptoms or you worry about a person you love, contact Adelphi’s team of experienced mental health professionals today.

Our contact information:

Telephone: 62509833 / Fax: 64932266

Address: Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, 1 Coleman Street, The Adelphi #04-32, Singapore 179803

Monday-Saturday: 10am to 7pm
Sun & PH: By Appointment