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Depression is very common among the elderly. According to some statistics, over 10% of persons aged 60 and above had experienced major depressive disorder (MDD) in the previous year. Loss of interest in pleasurable activities, depressed mood, thoughts of worthlessness or guilt, difficulties concentrating, thoughts of death/suicide, weariness, sleep disorders, unanticipated weight loss/gain or a change in appetite, and delayed or agitated movement are some of the symptoms of MDD.

Insomnia is common in individuals with MDD.

Both Insomnia and hypersomnia are common in individuals with MDD. However, it is vital to note that Insomnia increases the risk of MDD. For older adults, this is important as a study shows that more than 70% of individuals over 65 years reported at least a symptom of Insomnia.

There is growing evidence indicating that treating Insomnia in individuals with both MDD and Insomnia can help them sleep better and feel better. For example, subjects with MDD and Insomnia were treated with cognitive behavioral therapy for Insomnia in one trial done in Australia (CBT-I). Despite solely getting insomnia-focused therapy, 61 percent of research subjects who underwent CBT-I felt better, and most of the depression symptoms reduced – to the point where their MDD was declared to be in remission.

CBT-I can contribute to the reduction of MDD symptoms 

A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry evaluated whether CBT-I can prevent MDD development in individuals above 60 years. Results showed that 12% of the subjects that received CBT-I developed MDD, with only 26% of those that had received a sleep education program developing MDD. The findings were then used to consider the effect of the extent of symptoms of depression at baseline and hypnotic and antidepressant medication use. The researchers concluded that there was an almost 60% reduction in changes in depression.

Preventive medicine, or concentrating on health practices to prevent illness rather than managing medical issues in real-time, is gaining popularity. During a crisis when many individuals, particularly older adults, might well be dealing with their mood, it indicates that persons with insomnia disorder might consider CBT-I as a preventative against MDD.