Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have revealed that individuals with seasonal affective disorder (SAD)-a winter depression that leads to loss of motivation and interest in daily activities-have misconceptions about their sleep habits similar to those of insomniacs.
These findings open the door for treating seasonal affective disorder similar to the way doctors treat insomnia.
Kathryn Roecklein, primary investigator and assistant professor in Pitt`s Department of Psychology within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, along with a team of researchers from Pitt`s School of Medicine and Reyerson University, investigated why, according to a previously published sleep study by the University of California, Berkeley, individuals with seasonal affective disorder incorrectly reported that they slept four more hours a night in the winter.
“We wondered if this misreporting was a result of depression symptoms like fatigue and low motivation, prompting people to spend more time in bed,” Roecklein said.
“And people with seasonal affective disorder have depression approximately five months a year, most years. This puts a significant strain on a person`s work life and home life,” she said.
Roecklein and her team found that SAD participants` misconceptions about sleep were similar to the “unhelpful beliefs” or personal misconceptions about sleep that insomniacs often hold.
Due to depression, individuals with SAD, like those with insomnia, may spend more time resting in bed, but not actually sleeping-leading to misconceptions about how much they sleep.
These misconceptions, Roecklein said, play a significant role in sleep cognition for those with seasonal affective disorder.
Roecklein`s research data suggests that addressing, understanding, and managing these “unhelpful beliefs” about sleep by way of psychotherapy could lead to improved treatments for seasonal affective disorder.
The findings are published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.