Low tech “sleep manipulation” as an effective treatment for depression?

Low tech “sleep manipulation” as an effective treatment for depression?

The New York Times published “Yes, Your Sleep Schedule is Making You Sick,” by Richard Friedman, MD, 0n 3-10-17. Dr. Friedman is a frequent NTY contributor, and is a progressive psychiatrist who is interested in non-medication treatments.  His article begins by discussing jet lap and sleep, but goes on to review interesting research about “manipulating sleep to treat mental illness,” in particular using behavioral sleep changes to reduce depression symptoms.

He reviews research about the links between sleep, sunlight and mood.  He notes that significant changes in sleep patterns may be an either a warning sign of a developing mood disorder or possibly factor contributing to a developing mood disorder. This has led some psychiatrists to treat mood disorders with a combination of “a limited form of sleep deprivation” (one night of sleep deprivation),  “sleep phase advance”  (three nights of going to bed 5-6 hours earlier and sleeping only 7 hours) and exposure to bright light early in the morning, with the intent of sorting of rebooting the patient’s circadian rhythms.  This combination of interventions is called “triple chronotherapy,” and a recent study found remarkable improvements in patients with a bipolar depression who were treated with this set of interventions. It is heartening to find that patients with a history of not responding well to traditional psychiatric medications were found to respond to this therapy.

Dr. Friedman concludes, “With the possible exception of ketamine, a drug under investigation for treating depression, this therapy is the most rapid antidepressant treatment that we have.  About 60% of depressed patients feel markedly better within hours.  And – with the exception of some fatigue- there are no side effects.”

mhconcierge’s take: Dr. Friedman is a reliable source, and mhconcierge will continue to monitor and report on this interesting research. 

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