In a new study, researchers at the University of Warwick (UK) and Fudan University (China) discover the neural link between depression and sleep problems.
They found functional connectivity between the areas of the brain associated with short-term memory, self, and negative emotions.
All of these cause sufferers to dwell on bad thoughts and leading to a poor quality of sleep.
This research could lead to better sleep quality for people with depression, and opens up the possibility of new targeted treatments.
Depression and sleep problems often go hand-in-hand.
About 75% of depressed patients report significant levels of sleep disturbance, such as difficulty of falling asleep and short duration of sleep (insomnia).
People with insomnia also have a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety than those who sleep normally.
In the study, the team analyzed data from around 10,000 people. They examined the neural mechanisms underlying the relation between depression and quality of sleep.
In the brains of those living with depressive problems, the researchers discovered a strong connection between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (associated with short-term memory), the precuneus (associated with the self) and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (associated with negative emotion).
The analysis showed that these functional connectivities underlie the relation between depressive problems and sleep quality.
Based on the results, the researchers conclude that increased functional connectivity between these brain regions provides a neural basis for how depression is related to poor sleep quality.
The team suggests that the relation between depression and sleep has been observed more than one hundred years, and that they have identified the neural mechanisms of how they are connected for the first time.
Their finding may have implications for a deeper understanding of depression and important public health implications, as both sleep problems and depression affect a large number of people.
The research, ‘Functional Connectivities in the Brain That Mediate the Association Between Depressive Problems and Sleep Quality’, is published in JAMA Psychiatry and is authored by Professor Jianfeng Feng, Professor Edmund Rolls and Dr Wei Cheng.
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News source: JAMA Psychiatry.