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First Published Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Science of Sleep

By Rick Nauert, Ph.D. Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 25, 2009

“You’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.” We’ve all heard those words, but have we ever stopped to wonder about the mental health of people who just aren’t able to sleep well?

Rachel Manber has, and the Stanford University School of Medicine researcher is trying to identify the best way to treat patients suffering from both depression and insomnia.

Manber, Ph.D, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is seeking volunteers for a first-of-its-kind study on the benefits of combining the treatments of medication for depression and psychotherapy for sleep difficulties.

Depression and insomnia, defined as having difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, are very much linked.

“Insomnia is certainly a risk factor for depression: studies show that having insomnia increases a person’s risk of developing depression in one to three years,” Manber said.

At the same time, Manber pointed out, depressed patients with sleep problems don’t respond as well to standard depression treatments as other patients. This is a problem because between 60 and 84 percent of patients with major depression also sleep poorly.

In addition, if a sleep disorder goes untreated, a patient is at a greater risk for a future relapse of depression.

The multicenter study, which will involve 255 people, aims to determine whether combining antidepressant medications and insomnia therapy will improve the lives of people who experience both conditions simultaneously.

Manber plans to enroll 85 patients at Stanford; participants must be between the ages of 18 and 75, suffering from insomnia and depression, and not currently receiving treatment for either disorder.

During the study, participants will receive free evaluations of their sleep, including an at-home, all-night sleep study.

Participants will also receive 16 weeks of one of three FDA-approved antidepressant medications (Lexapro, Zoloft or Pristique) and will be randomized into receiving seven sessions of one of two forms of sleep-focused psychotherapies for insomnia.

Interested men and women should contact Rachel Wells at (650) 723-2641 for a free telephone screening.

The study is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and led by the Stanford site. Other centers participating in the study are Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Source: The Stanford University School of Medicine


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