The natural history of insomnia: acute insomnia and first-onset depression.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sleep, Volume 37, Issue 1, p.97-106 (2014)


Acute Disease, Adult, Affect, Age of Onset, Case-Control Studies, Chronic Disease, Depression, Disease Progression, Disease Susceptibility, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Polysomnography, Psychometrics, Risk Factors, Sleep, Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders, Stress, Psychological, Time Factors, Young Adult


<p><b>STUDY OBJECTIVES: </b>While many studies have examined the association between insomnia and depression, no studies have evaluated these associations (1) within a narrow time frame, (2) with specific reference to acute and chronic insomnia, and (3) using polysomnography. In the present study, the association between insomnia and first-onset depression was evaluated taking into account these considerations.</p><p><b>DESIGN: </b>A mixed-model inception design.</p><p><b>SETTING: </b>Academic research laboratory.</p><p><b>PARTICIPANTS: </b>Fifty-four individuals (acute insomnia [n = 33], normal sleepers [n = 21]) with no reported history of a sleep disorder, chronic medical condition, or psychiatric illness.</p><p><b>INTERVENTIONS: </b>N/A.</p><p><b>MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: </b>Participants were assessed at baseline (2 nights of polysomnography and psychometric measures of stress and mood) and insomnia and depression status were reassessed at 3 months. Individuals with acute insomnia exhibited more stress, poorer mood, worse subjective sleep continuity, increased N2 sleep, and decreased N3 sleep. Individuals who transitioned to chronic insomnia exhibited (at baseline) shorter REM latencies and reduced N3 sleep. Individuals who exhibited this pattern in the transition from acute to chronic insomnia were also more likely to develop first-onset depression (9.26%) as compared to those who remitted from insomnia (1.85%) or were normal sleepers (1.85%).</p><p><b>CONCLUSION: </b>The transition from acute to chronic insomnia is presaged by baseline differences in sleep architecture that have, in the past, been ascribed to Major Depression, either as heritable traits or as acquired traits from prior episodes of depression. The present findings suggest that the "sleep architecture stigmata" of depression may actually develop over the course transitioning from acute to chronic insomnia.</p>

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