Most people associate sleepless nights with feeling in a bad mood the next day.
But pulling an all-nighter can actually reverse depression for several days, a new study suggests.
Sometimes, even though the body is physically exhausted, the brain feels happy and crazy – that tired, tense feeling that some people will be familiar with.
Experts say this could be due to dopamine, a brain chemical, which plays a role in pleasure and reward.
According to researchers, the effect of losing a night of sleep is like a powerful antidepressant that maintains your mood for several days.
Staying up all night can reverse depression for several days, new study suggests
In the study, mild, acute sleep deprivation was induced in mice before analyzing their behavior and brain activity.
Not only did it increase dopamine release during the period of acute sleep loss, but it also improved synaptic plasticity (the ability of neurons to modify their connections), literally rewiring the brain to maintain a happy mood for the next few days. .
The findings, from neurobiologists at Northwestern University, could help scientists better understand how moods naturally change.
They could also lead to a more complete understanding of how fast-acting antidepressants, such as ketamine, work and help researchers identify previously unknown targets for new antidepressant drugs.
Author Professor Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy said: “Chronic sleep loss is well studied and its uniformly detrimental effects are widely documented.”
‘But brief loss of sleep, such as the equivalent of a student pulling an all-nighter before an exam, is less understood.
«We discovered that lack of sleep induces a powerful antidepressant effect and rewires the brain.
“This is an important reminder of how our casual activities, like a sleepless night, can fundamentally alter the brain in just a few hours.”
But researchers warn against starting to stay up all night to brighten a sad mood.
Professor Kozorovitskiy said: “The antidepressant effect is temporary and we know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.”
‘I’d say you’re better off going to the gym or going for a walk. This new knowledge is most important when it comes to finding a person the right antidepressant.’
The researchers found that after a sleepless night, the mice’s behavior changed and they became more aggressive, hyperactive, and hypersexual, compared to animals that experienced a typical night’s sleep.
The activity of dopamine neurons, which are responsible for the brain’s reward response, was measured, and the researchers found that activity was higher in the animals during the brief period of sleep loss.
They also found that the antidepressant effect persisted, except when dopamine reactions were silenced in the prefrontal cortex (the front part of the brain).
Professor Kozorovitskiy said: “This means that the prefrontal cortex is a clinically relevant area when looking for therapeutic targets.”
“But it also reinforces the idea that has been building recently in this field: dopamine neurons play very important but very different functions in the brain.
“They’re not just this monolithic population that just predicts rewards.”
Most of the behavior, such as hyperactivity and increased sexuality, disappeared within hours of acute sleep loss, but the antidepressant effect persisted for a few days, the study published in the journal Neuron found.