A Dark Night for Depression

sleep deprivation

Emerging research on Depression management: “One night’s sleep deprivation”

Sleep and depression, depression and sleep. The connection between these two subjects is widely researched. Many studies have evaluated the link between sleep and depression and most topics are related to the fact that depression may either be caused by sleep deprivation or that depression leads to imbalances in sleeping patterns.

An interesting new experimental approach is starting to get more and more attention. It is now being argued that one night’s sleep deprivation may actually show promising results for the management of depression.

sleep deprivationWhat is sleep deprivation?

A healthy sleeping pattern is essential to our health. It is recommended that adolescents get at least 9 hours of shut-eye per night and adults should sleep for around 7-8 hours with 6 hours being the bare minimum.

Sleep deprivation is when you either don’t sleep at all or when you sleep for a shorter time period than the base recommendation for sleep duration. Illness, work-related factors, late-night social activities and stress may all be causes of sleep deprivation. Disrupted sleeping patterns can be damaging to your health and may even impact your mental health. [1][2]


The effects of sleep deprivation

Chronic sleep deprivation and extreme sleep deprivation in a short time period (longer than one night) can lead to an imbalance in sleeping patterns and your sleep-wake cycle. It can also lead to the impairment of attention, cognition and memory. Furthermore, you may be at an increased risk of major depression if you are sleep deprived. [1][2]


What are the benefit of one night’s sleep deprivation?

In strong contrast to the damaging effects of sleep deprivation, studies are now showing that “one night’s sleep deprivation” may prove to be beneficial for victims of depression. [3][4]

Studies have shown that this experimental approach causes an improvement in the mood of non-medicated depressed people. This improvement is however transient as they seem to become depressed after a recovering night’s sleep or even a short nap.

The involvement of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) in depression is a popular hypothesis. Studies have reported that cortisol secretion levels were found to be higher than base line after one night’s sleep deprivation. In the view of these results, there is a possibility that sleep deprivation may have an effect on the HPA axis and this may demonstrate immense prospects for depression management. [3]


The dawning of a new era

The exact mechanism through which one night’s sleep deprivation has an influence on depression is still unknown. It is also not clearly understood why people seem to relapse into depression after sleeping again. Despite these uncertainties it is clear to see that a new era is making its appearance. In the future, these findings may lead to new approaches in the management of depression. [3][4]




  1. Orzeł-Gryglewska J. Consequences of sleep deprivation. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2010; vol. 23(1): 95-114.
  2. Roberts, R.E., Duong, H.T. The prospective association between sleep deprivation and depression among adolescents. Sleep. 2014; vol. 37(2): 239–244.
  3. Voderholzer U, Hohagen F, Klein T, Jungnickel J, Kirschbaum C, Berger M et al. Impact of sleep deprivation and subsequent recovery sleep on cortisol in unmedicated depressed patients. Am J Psychiatry. August 2004; vol. 161(8): 1404-1410.
  4. Grassi Zucconi G, Cipriani S, Balgkouranidou I, Scattoni R. ‘One night’ sleep deprivation stimulates hippocampal neurogenesis. Brain Res Bull. April 2006; 69(4): 375–381.

Written by Mariska Ten Dam

Mariska Ten Dam

Mariska ten Dam is a Health Care expert who specializes in Holistic Health. She is a qualified Natural Health Practitioner and a Health and Wellness Writer

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