Sleep problems may lead to depression in older men

by Martin

in Depression in Men, Depression News

A recently published study by researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) has uncovered a link between sleeplessness and depression.

Now if you know anything about depression, you may well be thinking: “Great! What next? Scientific proof that the sun rises in the morning and that the Pope is a catholic?”

Ok, it’s true that insomnia is a typical symptom of depression. But, according to UWA’s Professor Osvaldo Almeida, what this study found was:

a strong link between difficulty falling asleep and depression which cannot be explained adequately by reverse causality that is, that depression causes insomnia. We didn’t expect to find this result, so it took us by surprise.”

The study was conducted by means of questionnaires completed by a group of just over 5000 men between 70 and 90 years of age. 60% of the men reported at least one problem with sleep, whether difficulty getting to sleep, remaining awake for much of the night or waking early in the morning.

The interesting outcome was that a higher incidence of depression was reported amongst the men who had trouble getting to sleep or who remained awake through the night. Whereas no link with depression was found amongst those who tended to wake early.

There are limitations to the study in that the diagnosis of depression was not based on direct clinical interviews. Therefore, it is not claimed that a direct causal link is shown between the sleep problems identified and the likelihood of depression.

Nevertheless, given that sleep patterns do change as we age, the study suggests that older men should take care to ensure that they give themselves the best chance of getting off to sleep at night.

So, all the usual suspects, such as caffeine, alchohol and chocolate should be avoided late in the day.


Complaints of difficulty to fall asleep increase the risk of depression in later life: The health in men study by Osvaldo P. Almeida, Helman Alfonso, Bu B. Yeap, Graeme Hankey and Leon Flicker, Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders

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Last revised on September 1, 2011

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