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Teenagers are going to love this finding – in a trial where school started half an hour later than usual, there was a decrease in self-reported depression and unhappiness. Apparently the ideal time for a teenager to get up is 8am, which often doesn’t allow teenagers enough time to get their sleep. So in order to see how teenagers would respond with more sleep in the morning, researchers in America examined what would happen if school opened at 8:30 instead of 8:00 over a three month period.  They found that as well as decreasing tiredness and lateness, the percentage of students reporting unhappiness and depression was decreased from 65% to 45%. Interestingly, students seemed to go to bed 15 minutes earlier.

I’m curious whether eventually the teenagers would get used the extra half hour, and want another half hour, which would start to get less feasible. But nonetheless, this research reminds us of the important link between sleeping well and mental health. If we’re not getting enough sleep this can negatively effect our wellbeing, so it is important to make sure we’re getting enough sleep to keep us healthy. Teenagers, if you’re not getting enough sleep, maybe you can use this research to try to convince your parents and school to let you sleep in for an extra half hour? Otherwise, you’re stuck in the same boat as the rest of us, and may have to try to get more sleep at the other end of the day.

After the previous post which touched on recreational drug use and depression, I thought this recent article from Reuters Health was particularly relevant. They report a study which showed a 50% increase in depression for those who had smoked pot before the age of 17. More research may be needed in order to make sure that smoking pot and depression weren’t the product of some other process, for example, the association between depression and smoking was decreased when childhood misconduct was taken into account. But nonetheless,   I’d err on the side of caution here, and try to avoid pot, especially if you’re depressed. Look at it this way; avoiding pot is looking unlikely to make depression worse. Recreational drug use may seem like a way to deal with issues now, but there are a number of better long term strategies.

Anti-depressant drugs can be one way to deal with depression. One issue with anti-depressants is that there is not one anti-depressant that is effective for everyone. While many may find relief with the first anti-depressant, others need to ‘shop around’ for the right anti-depressant, and still others don’t find one that works for them. Add to this the delay – a number of weeks – between when anti-depressant therapy begins, and when you can tell if it effective, and the process can rather frustrating.

In the future this delay may be minimized. One article on psychcentral describes how brain waves were measured in a study to detect individuals responses to a couple of anti-depressants, with 74% accuracy, much higher than other methods. A recent article in the journal psychophamacology reports that fMRI – a technique using magnetic fields to examine which parts of the brain are active – can be used to predict how likely people with anxiety disorders are to respond to anti-depressants (anxiety disorders and depression are linked, so it’s thought fMRI could be used in a similar way with depression).

If such technologies became widespread it would make finding the right anti-depressant easier. But for now, we have to taking it one day at a time, making sure we have a healthy lifestyle and diet. And as always, it’s good to be supported, to have someone to go when you really need to.

May 2020