It is scientifically acknowledged that there is a close connection between depression and sleep disorders such as insomnia, but it is also a recognised fact that a lack of sleep can lead eventually to depression – so which came first, the chicken or the egg? Where exactly is the connection between the two, and how can we tell which depends on which? Most of all, how can we deal with and solve the problem?
Those who have never experienced prolonged sleep disorder, where every single night you lie awake struggling with thoughts, fears, anxiety and so on, can tend to underestimate the devastating effect of insomnia on the natural functions of the mind and body. But insomnia sufferers know that it is not just ‘all in the mind’; a cup of hot milk can help, as can a lot of other tips for inducing sleepiness before bed, but the problem is a tough one to solve definitively.
It is still unclear what causes chronic sleep disorders. What they are realizing, however, is that while insomnia used to be regarded as mainly a result of depression, the opposite seems to be equally the case. According to Daniel J. Buysse, MD, who worked on a study conducted several years ago in Zurich, “a growing body of evidence suggests that insomnia is not just a symptom of depression, but that it may actually precede depression. In other words, people who have insomnia but no depression are at increased risk for later developing depression.”
The ‘Third Eye’
In the brain, the system in charge of managing pain and pleasure is called the Endocrine Axis and is made up of three glands: the Hypothalamus gland, which receives messages from the sense organs, the Pituitary gland, which ‘reads’ these messages and orders the release of the appropriate hormones for responding to the stimulus, and, last but not least, the Pineal gland, often known as the ‘third eye’. This tiny gland releases the melatonin hormone, which (among other important tasks) relaxes the nervous system and induces sleepiness. If not balanced correctly, these three glands are believed to cause severe depression.