In older people, the link between depression and dementia is significant. A meta-analysis of this correlation, published in 2013 in the British Journal of Psychology, supports this link, with researchers noting that depressed people over age 50 are more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.
How does this happen? The exact mechanism hasn’t been defined yet, but one hypothesis is that changes in blood vessels that impact brain matter cause and further both depression and dementia.
Depression is not a part of normal aging, and you can help older friends and family members by keeping a watchful eye for symptoms and asking medical caretakers to take these signals seriously. It’s never too late to seek help.
Insomnia, like other chronic health problems, can increase one's risk of depression because it affects your day-to-day life, energy levels, and ability to focus or enjoy things. Depression can also cause sleeping patterns to change, causing you to sleep excessively or not very much at all—both of which are actually bad for your health. These sleep disruptions may be due to chemical changes in the brain that come along with depression. In addition, the same stress and anxiety that can heighten or even trigger depression can make it difficult to drift off to sleep each night.
Depending on whether you're sleeping too much—or not enough—the solutions for getting more restful sleep will vary. There are a variety of drug-free techniques that can help you improve your sleep, as well as medical interventions that can help.
Depression is devious; it can make nearly any health problem worse because it often saps your energy and motivation to care for yourself. And many chronic illnesses are accompanied by an increased risk of depression as patients adapt to the potential limitations and lifestyle changes a new diagnosis requires.
The faster you can get treatment for depression, the better. Too many people suffer needlessly without ever getting proper diagnosis or treatment. If you’re listless, having trouble sleeping, feeling helpless or hopeless, or simply not up to pursuing your usual interests, ask a physician for help.
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Alzheimer's Society, "Depression and Anxiety," www.alzheimers.org.uk, accessed on June 27, 2013.
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Harvard Medical School, "Too early to get up, too late to get back to sleep," www.health.harvard.edu, accessed June 27, 2013.
Mayo Clinic, "Insomnia," www.mayoclinic.com, accessed on June 27, 2013.
National Institute of Mental Health, "Depression and Chronic Pain," ipsi.uprrp.edu, accessed on June 27, 2013.
Yelizaveta Sher, Sermsak Lolak, José R. Maldonado. "The Impact of Depression in Heart Disease," Current Psychiatry Reports, (2010) 12:255–264.