The paradox of antidepressants and REM sleep

On Psychology and Neuroscience

One frequently cited symptom of depression is the inability to fall or stay asleep. Unsurprisingly, this insomnia can be extremely frustrating to the individual and therefore perpetuate or exacerbate depressive symptoms. There are many hypotheses as to why this may be, including:

  • Insomnia may lead to a decreased overall quality of life or decreased performance in school or work, which could worsen depression.
  • Inability to fall asleep may lead to depressive rumination during the nighttime, especially while lying awake in the dark.
  • Losing control of sleep may fester feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, common symptoms in depression (Taylor, 2008).

Seemingly counterintuitive to this point, antidepressant medications may contribute to insomnia. Sleep deprivation typically results in poor mood upon awakening due to feelings of grogginess and frustration from lack of sleep the night before. However, a specific stage of sleep, known as rapid eye movement (REM) may have different effects on…

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