Watch CBS News

Dr. Max Gomez: Helping Depressed Patients Get Some Sleep

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- A major development that could make a difference for many people fighting depression is completely drug free.

Insomnia is an extremely common problem associated with depression. It affects more than half of the 18-million depressed patients in the country, CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, and it looks like treating insomnia could make a huge difference in fighting depression.

"I have been suffering from depression for quite some time and it's almost impossible to sleep," Michelle said.

Michelle said that she would go for days or weeks without sleeping if she didn't take her sleep medication and it made her depression worse.

"It can make you not focused and irritable. It can make you feel not part of the community of the world. It can make you feel like an alien," she said.

It is unclear whether insomnia is a symptom or a cause of depression but a number of studies are looking at whether treating insomnia with special talk therapy can make a difference in depression.

"They started treating the insomnia right at the same time they started treating the depression and by treating both simultaneously they doubled the remission rate," explained Dr. Alan Manevitz, Lenox Hill Hospital.

That was double the rate of remission seen with anti-depression drugs like Prozac and with conventional talk therapy.

The therapy used is known as cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia or CBT-I for short. It consists of an inexpensive course that is done twice a week for four weeks and involves teaching patients to set and stick to a regular wake up time, get out of bed during wake periods, avoid food, reading, or TV in bed, and to eliminate daytime napping.

"That's huge. To be able to double the rates of depression remission. Anything that can do that is remarkable," Dr. Manevitz said.

Patients agreed.

"I think it would be a huge breakthrough if you could treat insomnia as its own disease," Michelle said.

There are several larger studies being done to confirm the findings of the initial study by the University of Toronto. While no therapy works for everyone, experts believe that by combining talk therapy with other treatments the treating of depression could be revolutionized.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.