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Maybe sleep is the problem – let’s stay up all night

You probably spend a huge amount of time worrying about sleep or rather not sleeping enough. It might even be making you depressed. Definitely anxious. Or maybe it’s the depression/anxiety that is stopping you sleeping – it’s all very chicken and eggy. Well, here’s a bit of counter-intuitivity for you: It’s called ‘wake therapy’ and we read about it in Quartz.

There’s a study going on in America testing wake therapy to help with depression. You stay up all night and you feel better. STOP LAUGHING.

Here’s the science: There is a receptor in the brain that is usually targeted by anti-depressants that also responds to sleep deprivation. When sleep deprived, the receptor sends mood-altering signals to the brain, presumably as a way of jollying it up. A kind of ‘You can do it. So what if you have had no sleep?’

Anyone familiar with insomnia will know about that first flush of adrenaline that makes you feel like you will be able to cope. You will also know how hard the crash is – and how insane you feel after that. So we are thinking it might be hard to persuade people that wake therapy is the answer.

However the study is persisting with its experiment: “Patients start by staying up for one full night and going to bed extremely early the next night. From there their bedtime gets progressively pushed back, until they find a personal sweet spot. Patients also must spend at least 30 minutes each morning in front of a full-spectrum light box, even after their sleep schedule has normalised.”

It may sound, at best, mildly inconvenient (lightbox anyone?) but results are already showing an improvement in depression symptoms for 50-60% of patients. So maybe this isn’t a laughing matter. And, anyway, there’s always coffee.

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