New Research on Insomnia & Depression


The New York Times reports on new research from multiple sources that finds focused attention on insomnia is proving to be a “cheap, relatively brief and usually effective” approach to treating depression.  “If the figures continue to hold up, the advance will be the most significant in the treatment of depression since the introduction of Prozac in 1987.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. As one who feels I wasted 15 years of my life on psych meds due to undiagnosed apnea, I was very upset that there wasn’t any suggestion that undiagnosed sleep orders can masquerade wrongly as depression and anxiety. In one of my comment which hasn’t yet been approved, I said that anyone who sees a psychiatrist with sleep disorders should automatically be screened for sleep issues like apnea.

    Regarding the CBT-I that was suggested, if you are dealing with undiagnosed sleep disorders like apnea or narcolepsy, that will work as well as teaching a pig to sing. And in my opinion, even when the treatment may be appropriate, in my opinion, it has become way too much a one size fits all type of deal just like with meds. Now granted, it doesn’t have the horrific side effects but it can still damaging if it isn’t right for your specific situation.

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      • Oli,

        It doesn’t hurt to look into those but they are not cures for most people with apnea. People who don’t get tested for sleep apnea on the assumption that taking vitamin D will cure it are playing with fire in my opinion.

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        • What are the cures for apnea that help most people?

          I didn’t say that one shouldn’t get a test for apnea and I don’t think that vitamin D is the magic bullet to cure apnea. But as depression and anxiety can be caused by apnea, sleep apnea might be the symptom of something else.

          I had nocturnal panic attacks and some general anxiety. Thought it was psychological, went to psychotherapy, didn’t help at all. When I tried a gluten-free diet, they were gone after a few days and never came back (didn’t expect that). Did I have undiagnosed sleep apnea? Maybe. Was the anxiety caused by something else? I don’t know. But I’m glad that nobody suggested any psychiatric medication.

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          • Oli,

            There are usually no cures for sleep apnea as much as I wish there was due to my difficult adjustment to pap therapy which is the standard treatment. It is due to having a narrow airway.

            Many surgeons will push surgery as cure but alot of people who undergo these procedures end up on the pap machine.

            Even people who are overweight and end up losing it are only cured of apnea about 50% of the time.

            By the way, I am not implying that all depression and anxiety which results in sleep problems is the result of apnea. But to not even screen for it is inexcusable.

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  2. I can really relate to these comments. As someone that had hypertension and fatigue at too young of an age, I had to “convince” my doctor to refer me to a sleep center. The snoring part is what finally made him agree. A sleep study showed that I had severe sleep apnea with no symptoms of depression like too much or early onset REM.

    I was fine with the CPAP and 100% compliant; it even felt better to be able to breathe with it on. However, it did nothing for my fatigue, and I resented being asked to live with the machine and pay for parts for the rest of my life. So
    this meant that I had to hunt down a ENT to remove my chronically swollen tonsils. Every doctor, including the ENT, tried to dissuade me from the surgery, saying that it usually doesn’t cure anything Yet, they were so enlarged and had been for decades, that I was certain it would help. At least the ENT agreed to it, and the surgery (and avoiding gluten) did cure me.

    Now, I am still looking for an answer to my fatigue. I am almost positive it is under treatment of hypothyroidism and I see an endocrinologist next month. Still, through all of this I have to stave off recommendations from my GP for an antidepressant. I am half tempted to take one, so I can demonstrate that it is not the answer, yet I am scared of the side effects and trying to get off of it.

    This was rather long-winded and I didn’t mean it to be. The point I want to make is that you have to do the work to figure out what is wrong with you, and how to get it treated, even when you feel like garbage. I do wish doctors were your advocates instead of living vending machines for ADs.

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