Stress, anxiety and depression have often been considered to lead to difficulty sleeping.
But what if it was the other way around? What if the sleeplessness was actually the root of those troubles?
British researchers put this theory to the test and published the results in Lancet Psychiatry. What they discovered may surprise you.
They recruited 3,755 insomniac students from 26 British universities with an average age of 25, all experiencing some level of stress, anxiety or depression.
The students were randomly divided into two groups. Half received 6, 20-minute online sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy and the other half received no treatment but just advice for countering their insomnia.
The program ran for 10 weeks, and the students’ mental health was assessed via online questionnaires before commencement of the therapy, at week three, week 10, and at week 22, (12 weeks after the program ended).
Compared to the students receiving only the advice, the students who received the cognitive behavioral therapy showed a large improvement with sleep.
They also experienced a reduction in their depression, anxiety, and nightmares, and an improvement in general psychological well-being and work and home functioning.
Up to now, insomnia treatment has not been used as part of a treatment program for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems, as it has been seen as a symptom of these conditions, and not as a cause.
This study suggests that it is time to treat the insomnia of people who suffer from psychological disorders, because it seems to be a contributing factor to these disorders.