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Electric shock therapy to treat depression may also beat insomnia in older adults

High levels of insomnia include clinically significant problems with classic symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, all likely to impact quality of life.

health Updated: Aug 16, 2017 14:27 IST
Asian News International, Washington DC
Electric shock therapy,Depressio,Anxiety
ECT is a powerful antidepressant with a global effect that hits many of the different symptoms of depression. (Shutterstock )

Older people receiving electric shock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), to combat the blues of age will need an additional treatment if insomnia is one of their symptoms, according to a recent study.

“What we can say is that ECT is a powerful antidepressant with a global effect that hits many of the different symptoms of depression but it does not have a specific anti-insomnia effect in older patients,” said first author W. Vaughn McCall from the Augusta University.

The team took a second look at a group of 240 patients age 60 and older who participated in a study looking at the benefits of the usual combination of ECT and the antidepressant venlafaxine for major depression. High levels of insomnia include clinically significant problems with classic symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, waking up too early and daytime sleepiness, all likely to impact quality of life.

They found in the high insomnia group, just over 12% of patients experienced remission of their insomnia over the course of the treatment. However, the percentage who got sleep aids also more than doubled across the course of the study - from 8.6 to 23.2% - because their insomnia problems persisted.

ECT is used almost exclusively for depression and occasionally for mania and schizophrenia, McCall said. Therapy includes a short, controlled burst of electricity to the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp. The electricity alters brain chemistry, which helps some patients feel better within days.

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First Published: Aug 16, 2017 14:26 IST