Study: Pulling an all-nighter eases depression

The effect is temporary, and sleep deprivation leads to other health problems, but the finding might lead to new treatments.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 6:02 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - “Wired and tired.” Maybe you’ve heard that phrase after not getting much sleep.

Researchers have found pulling an all-nighter might ease depression -- but you need to read the fine print. Just like anything else, there are pros and cons.

This study by neurobiologists at Northwestern University in Illinois may uncover what creates that punch-drunk effect we get after a sleepless night.

After a night like that, your body may be exhausted but your brain feels jittery or hyperactive, so they wanted to find out why.

Researchers used mice for this study. We can’t ask mice if they’re depressed, so researchers created a depressed-like state in all of the mice before disrupting their sleep. They induced sleep loss in some mice, while others got a typical night’s sleep.

The mice that stayed up all night showed a reversed depressed state.

Dopamine is the chemical that gives us that reward response, and researchers say sleep-deprived mice had higher dopamine activity.

They say there’s a transition in the brain going from depressed to the temporary boost in dopamine that gives your brain a chance to reorganize.

That brain rewiring gave mice a boost in mood for several days.

There’s a lot more involved -- brain science is complex -- but that’s the short version of what they discovered.

Experts say this doesn’t mean you should go without sleep in order to ease depression. Sleep loss in humans leads to more health problems.

But researchers are doing this to create new depression treatments based on the area of the brain they saw was affected by less sleep and that boost of the happy chemical, dopamine.