That mother nature I tell you…she is one smart cookie. No one thinks there is anything good about insomnia, but alas, there is. Over the last 40 years, there has been continuous documentation that if a woman stays up at night, or the second 1/2 of the night, depression will lift by the morning. “Sleep deprivation can elevate your mood even if you are not depressed, and can induce euphoria.” As the article states, this is not a magic button because of the mere fact that chronic sleep deprivation is not a desirable long term solution for anything due to the cognitive delays that start appearing after a short period of time. Yet, this finding shows us that depression can be immediately reversed, and there’s something about the sleeping brain that brings on depression. It is believed that sleep deprivation interferes with REM sleep, thereby warding off depression.
Although this article goes on to explain the finer points of the theories behind this phenomenon, and seems to be more interested in how this finding can someday help people who suffer from depression, I am just in awe of how nature has created such a beautiful mechanism to protect mothers and babies. It is still not understood why some new moms suffer from postpartum depression, and why there are varying degrees of manifestation, but women have been given the ‘gift’ of sleep deprivation in those early months to help combat the depression. It opens up a major question about how our modern way of early parenting might be thwarting this defense mechanism. For example, if a family chooses to bottle feed, mom may actually get more sleep than she normally would if she were exclusively breast feeding. Is this exacerbating her postpartum depression because she’s actually getting too much sleep? Hmm.
Modern women often complain about the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn. Perhaps if it was presented to them in another way, as a natural mechanism of self preservation, we could change attitudes and begin to tackle the very real and very serious issue of postpartum depression.