Sleep Deprivation Gives Clues for Depression Relief


If you experience depression, you likely know what neurons and neurotransmitters are. You may soon be just as familiar with the term glia, or glia cells.

One type of glia cell, called astrocytes, is being studied because it regulates a neurotransmitter that has to do with sleep and mood.

It is already known that acute sleep deprivation is a highly successful, though inconvenient, way of temporarily reducing symptoms of depression. Particularly, the prevention of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is known to put a damper on depressed moods.

Unfortunately, the positive effects of sleep deprivation are short-lived, so it is not used much as a clinical treatment. However, researchers have recognized that understanding how the sleep-deprivation antidepressant mechanism works can ultimately lead to a better understanding of the depressive disorder.

Astrocytes and Adenosine

Our neurons have receptors on them that dock a sleep-inducing neurotransmitter called adenosine. Astrocytes regulate adenosine receptors. Adenosine accumulates in the receptors during the day. As the receptors fill, we are slowly nudged into a sleepy state by late evening.

When we are deprived of sleep, the levels of adenosine in the brain do not fall off as they do when we sleep well. By inducing sleep deprivation in mice, researchers have demonstrated that increased astrocyte-derived adenosine floating about the brain correlates with a decrease in depressed behavior.

This information is important for the development of fast-onset treatments for depression and more effective medications. It is a possible pathway to quick symptom reduction in people who are suicidal.

Body Clocks and Light

Despite the new research, depriving yourself of sleep to treat your depressive symptoms is not recommended. Unregulated sleep patterns can make life more problematic than they already might be.

However, the link between sleep deprivation and temporary symptom relief has also led to a flurry of research on the interplay of light, our body’s circadian rhythm (body-clock), and mood disorders. When depressed people reset their body clock to match nature’s rhythms, it is reported that their symptoms of depression are relieved.

Source: Science Daily

Photo by John Nyboer


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