How an insomnia therapy can help with other illnesses

The following originally appeared on The Upshot (copyright 2015, The New York Times Company).

It’s a Catch-22 that even those with a common cold experience: Illness disrupts sleep. Poor sleep makes the symptoms of the illness worse.

What’s true for a cold also holds for more serious conditions that co-occur with insomnia. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol dependence, fibromyalgia, cancer and chronic pain often give rise to insomnia, just as sleeplessness exacerbates the symptoms of these diseases. Historically, insomnia was considered a symptom of other diseases. Today it is considered an illness in its own right and recognized as an amplifier of other mental and physical ailments. When a person is chronically tired,pain can be more painful, depression deeper, anxiety heightened.

What should doctors address first, insomnia or the co-occurring condition? How about both at the same time? A new study suggests that a therapy that improves sleep also reduces symptoms of other illnesses that often disrupt it.

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