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Insomnia and Nightmares May Up Risk of Depression

Insomnia, Nightmares May Up Risk of Depression

New research suggests difficulty sleeping may increase the risk of depression by making it more difficult for a person to regulate their emotions.

Investigators studied firefighters and found that a high percentage reported clinically significant insomnia symptoms (52.7 percent), depression symptoms (39.6 percent), and nightmare problems (19.2 percent).

Additional analyses revealed that the indirect effects of overall emotion regulation difficulties were significant both for the relationship between insomnia and depression and nightmares and depression.

Researchers discovered limited access to emotion regulation strategies, such as problem-solving skills and the ability to decrease negative emotion, were the strongest, most significant indirect effect for both relationships.

“Our study findings suggest that firefighters with sleep difficulties are likely to experience greater struggles accessing strategies to regulate their emotions, especially when feeling upset. This, in turn, may lead to or worsen feelings of depression and low mood,” said lead author Melanie Hom, a doctoral candidate at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.

“These results are important because they provide a plausible explanation for why and how sleep problems may contribute to depression, which are critical questions for prevention and intervention.”

Study results appear in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, transient insomnia symptoms occur in 30 to 35 percent of the population. Chronic insomnia, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months, affects about 10 percent of adults.

Approximately two to eight percent of the general population has a current problem with nightmares, and trauma-related nightmares are the most consistent problem reported by people who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Led by Hom and under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Joiner, the research team analyzed responses from 880 current and retired United States firefighters between the ages of 18 and 82 years. Participants completed a web-based survey of behavioral health.

Self-report measures included the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, Insomnia Severity Index, PTSD Checklist and Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale.

“Firefighters are typically faced with many demands, including difficult work schedules, and they often both witness and experience traumatic events,” said Hom.

“It is not surprising that firefighters may experience sleep problems and depression, but it is critical that greater efforts be made to prevent and treat these problems.”

According to the authors, the findings suggest that emotional dysregulation may be an important therapeutic target for reducing depression risk among firefighters and other individuals who experience insomnia and nightmares.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Insomnia, Nightmares May Up Risk of Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Insomnia, Nightmares May Up Risk of Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/02/18/insomnia-nightmares-may-up-risk-of-depression/99311.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Feb 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Feb 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.