The neurotransmitter serotonin plays a major role in the development and maintenance of depression. Just like melatonin, it not only influences our sleep, but also our impulse control – which is indispensable to initiate well-considered actions that are not simply “out of impulse”. If we have too little serotonin in our body, we have disturbed sleep and increased impulsivity. In the case of a severe depression, this can also increase the urge to take one’s own life – as well as the turf of thoughts and brooding. But serotonin now has an influence on many other areas, such as our eating habits, anxiety, libido, and even nausea. As you can see, the balance of a single neurotransmitter can be the trigger for reduced well-being. For this reason, in the case of depression, medicines are sometimes given that are aimed at redirecting the serotonin level to the correct path, such as SSRIs, i.e. serotonin reuptake inhibitors. In addition, there are also non-drug ways to influence serotonin activity, which can have an effect in mild depression, such as proper diet or exercise and sports. However, this does not mean that these measures work for everyone who suffers from depression – there are very different causes of depression, which should always be clarified with a specialist. It is only with this knowledge that the right treatment approach can be selected.
The same applies to the hormone melatonin, which is produced from serotonin in our diencephalon and controls our day-night rhythm, i.e. our internal clock.
Serotonin also has an influence on our sleep, as does melatonin. The exact relationship between melatonin and depression has not yet been fully clarified. However, we know that sleep problems occur when too little melatonin can be produced. Melatonin signals to our body that it is dark and that our body can initiate sleep. Some patients with sleep problems are given artificial melatonin in addition, but this is usually not effective for sleep problems associated with depression.
If you want to learn more about the biochemical processes in your body and how you can influence them, try our edupression Psychoeducation.
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