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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2006;8(2):217-26.

Depression and sleep: pathophysiology and treatment.

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PA, USA.


This review examines the relationship between sleep and depression. Most depressive disorders are characterized by subjective sleep disturbances, and the regulation of sleep is intricately linked to the same mechanisms that are implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. After briefly reviewing the physiology and topography of normal sleep, the disturbances revealed in studies of sleep in depression using polysomnographic recordings and neuroimaging assessments are discussed. Next, treatment implications of the disturbances are reviewed at both clinical and neurobiologic levels. Most antidepressant medications suppress rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, although this effect is neither necessary nor sufficient for clinical efficacy. Effects on patients' difficulties initiating and maintaining sleep are more specific to particular types of antidepressants. Ideally, an effective antidepressant will result in normalization of disturbed sleep in concert with resolution of the depressive syndrome, although few interventions actually restore decreased slow-wave sleep. Antidepressants that block central histamine 1 and serotonin 2 tend to have stronger effects on sleep maintenance, but are also prone to elicit complaints of daytime sedation. Adjunctive treatment with sedative hypnotic medications--primarily potent, shorter-acting benzodiazepine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA A)-selective compounds such as zolpidem--are often used to treat associated insomnia more rapidly. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other nonpharmacologic strategies are also helpful.

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