Double The Depression Risk Linked To This Sleep Style

Posted on December 21, 2017

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Research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry finds that, after falling asleep, people who start dreaming sooner are at a greater risk of depression. This effect is hereditary and runs in the family, with those starting to dream within the first 60 minutes of falling asleep twice as likely to experience depression. A more common range for entering dream sleep for the first time stands at around 90 minutes after falling asleep.

First author of the study, Professor Donna Giles, asserts that this is the "first psychological marker that predicts the onset of depression even in someone who has never had the illness" and this is so important because, while doctors know that having depression in the family makes an individual more prone to the disorder, "understanding the link in detail has been difficult" and at this point in time doctor's are unable to predict who will become depressed.

Dream sleep, also known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, is the 5th of the five statges of sleep we go through during the night. In all the other four stages, the brain winds down, but when it hits REM sleep. our brain kicks into overdrive, producing the phenomenon we call dreams. The Professor explains that in REM sleep, brain activity goes on just as if we were awake, with our muscles being inhibited, which is known as paradoxical sleep, as the brain behaves in the exact same way, just as if we're awake and conscious. The speed an individual takes to go into REM sleep is difficult to self-determine, and someone wouldn't know that they have it unless they were tested in a sleep laboratory. "Your sense of time is mixed up when you sleep, so you can't really remember how fast you fell asleep and started dreaming", the Professor adds.

In this study, the sleep patterns of 352 participants in 70 families were analysed. It was quickly found that a family history of depression, added to the tendency to fall quickly into dream sleep, double the risk of depression for members of the family. In families with members who are depressed, this can be an effective way of predicting mental illness and taking preventive measures, the Professor discusses. Becoming more educated about the first symptoms of depression can go a long way in taking some protective measures.

This study is available here.


Source material from PsyBlog

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