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.
Analyzing data across 2,189 patients, collected in 37 randomized trials, the researchers found that C.B.T.-I. is also helpful for those with chronic mental or physical illnesses. The researchers found that when insomnia is treated with C.B.T.-I., symptoms of some other illnesses abate, too, at least somewhat. It was found to reduce alcohol use in alcoholics, decrease symptoms of depression, reduce severity of P.T.S.D. symptoms, alleviate fatigue in breast cancer patients and reduce chronic pain.
For those who are both chronically tired and chronically sick, the route to additional relief of both may be through the mind.