Chronic Sleep Deprivation Can Increase Depression in Women

Young woman having difficulty sleepingChronic sleep deprivation increases symptoms of depression and anxiety in young women, according to a study published in Sleep Medicine.

The study found a single night of poor sleep did not harm mental health, potentially even alleviating the effects of depression. But women who slept less over a two-week period were more likely to report higher levels of depression and anxiety.

The Connection Between Sleep, Depression, and Anxiety

Researchers followed 171 female college students for two weeks. Participants completed a questionnaire measuring anxiety and depression symptoms to establish a baseline. Thereafter, researchers used daily surveys, including the Mood and Anxiety Symptom Questionnaire-Short Form, to measure symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Participants also logged their nightly sleep totals, the amount of time it took them to fall asleep each night, and their subjective assessment of sleep quality. Based on questionnaire answers, researchers judged a third of participants to be “at risk” for depression. Seventeen percent had clinically significant levels of anxiety.

Participants slept an average of seven hours and 22 minutes and took 21 minutes to fall asleep each night. Most participants said their sleep was “fairly good.”

Women who slept less each night had greater levels of anhedonic depression. Anhedonia is a decreased ability to experience pleasure. Less sleep was also correlated with higher levels of anxiety. Women with high levels of anhedonia also reported more symptoms after a long night’s sleep. Women who experienced only a single evening of poor sleep reported lower levels of depression.

The study’s authors say sleep deprivation can initiate a problematic feedback loop. Women may experience more mental health symptoms with decreased sleep. Those mental health symptoms can then make it even more difficult to get to sleep.

How Much Sleep Is Healthy?

In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation amended its sleep recommendations. The new guidelines recommend the following sleep amounts:

  • 0-3 months: 14-17 hours per day
  • 4-11 months: 12-15 hours per day
  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours per day
  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours per day
  • 6-13 years: 9-11 hours per day
  • 14-17 years: 8-10 hours per day
  • 18-64 years: 7-9 hours per day
  • 65+ years: 7-8 hours per day

References:

  1. Kalmbach, D. A., Arnedt, J. T., Swanson, L. M., Rapier, J. L., & Ciesla, J. A. (2016). Reciprocal dynamics between self-rated sleep and symptoms of depression and anxiety in young adult women: A 14-day diary study. Sleep Medicine. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.03.014
  2. National Sleep Foundation recommends new sleep times. (2015, February 2). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

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  • Blaire

    Blaire

    June 6th, 2016 at 3:11 PM

    How have we not always understood the important role that sleep plays in our lives? I mean it’s like all of a sudden this is the magic cure all, sleep. It does do the bodies wonders, that is for sure, but how is it that it is only now that there is so much information out there that genuinely seems to prove this fact? I knew I shouldn’t have listened to my parents about getting out of the bed when I was a teenager!

  • johnny

    johnny

    June 7th, 2016 at 6:03 PM

    I am guessing that this study mainly looked at the ways that sleep impacts the lives of women but what about me? Couldn’t lack of sleep also have a negative impact on the lives of men as well?

  • celeste

    celeste

    June 8th, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    Yep, I’m feeling it. The less I get a full night’s sleep the worse I feel every single day. And this happens a lot with me because I have two small kids and a husband who works 3rd shift.

  • Kim M

    Kim M

    October 17th, 2016 at 1:36 PM

    It seems that the real take away is that the amount of sleep and adult needs doesn’t really change until you
    reach retirement age.

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