Spending eight hours in bed at night helps antidepressants to work more effectively, new research finds.
Of those who spent eight hours in bed, 63% saw improvements in their symptoms while taking antidepressants.
After only six hours sleep, though, only one-third saw improvements.
The antidepressant response was also faster for those who had eight hours sleep rather than only six.
The conclusions come from a study in which the researchers expected the exact opposite.
Previous studies have found that restricting people’s sleep to only four or five hours improves the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Professor J. Todd Arnedt, who led the research, said this was the opposite of what they found:
“Although we predicted the group with restricted time in bed would have a better response, based on previous sleep deprivation research in depression, we actually found the opposite.
This is the first study to demonstrate that adequate sleep might accelerate and augment antidepressant treatment response, but more research is necessary.”
People in the study found if very difficult to get up earlier in order to get just six hours sleep.
Typically they only managed to get up an hour earlier, rather than two hours earlier.
Professor Arnedt said:
“These findings tell us that, even if the six-hour condition had yielded better results in terms of treatment response, patients would be unlikely to follow a clinical recommendation to spend only six hours in bed during the initial two weeks of antidepressant therapy.
So, this is a strategy that is not practical for implementation in outpatient settings.”
The simplest advice at this stage for people taking antidepressants is to get the full eight hours, if possible.
Ultimately sleep advice could be tailored to the individual’s circadian rhythms, Professor Arnedt said:
“Eventually, we’d like to identify combinations of sleep and circadian treatments that are independently effective for depression and that can be used practically and safely in inpatient and outpatient settings.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Arendt et al., 2016).