In a newly released study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the effects of therapy-assisted treatments for insomnia were found to decrease the risk of recurrent depression in older adults. 

In a clinical trial of 290 adults age 60 and older, the researchers found that two months of therapy for insomnia resulted in a decreased likelihood of experiencing both incidental and recurrent depression. As part of the study, the adults were split into two groups where one received eight weeks of basic sleep hygiene education and another was treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT-I) for the same period of time.

The research found that this therapy-based method was twice as effective as the traditional sleep education program in treating insomnia. During a three-year follow-up period, there was an 83% reduction of depression development found in those who sustained remission from insomnia.

Unlike traditional sleep hygiene treatments, CBT targets the thought patterns that contribute to dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs about sleep. Under a CBT regimen, a therapist aids a patient in encouraging ways to dispel the often illogical thinking patterns that exasperate depression or bad sleep. 

"That's why CBT-I is so effective in person because the therapist is helping that individual navigate and negotiate with themselves - and it can be really hard work," said UCLA’s Dr. Michael Irwin, the lead author of the study, to CNN

These results take on particular relevance given the prevalence of insomnia and other sleep disorders in the U.S. today.  

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, approximately three in 10 Americans suffer from some symptom of insomnia. Chronic insomnia was only found in 10% of adults and an equivalent percentage were believed to suffer daytime consequences in their daily routines. 

Like insomnia, depression is also prevalent among adults. In a report by the non-profit Mental Health America, it was estimated that almost 20% of U.S adults experienced a mental illness in 2019, and depression, including the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, was often an accompanying factor.