Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is this just a dream?

I can hear anxious parents now--"We've got to get Billy to sleep, or he'll end up depressed!"

Another example of what Neil Postman lamented about numerating our lives in studies and the demise of common sense. First, the sample size and the differences in outcome may or may not be, as they say, statistically significant. 33% of those who slept well also showed anxiety and/or depression. Not all that much less than the 46% of bad sleepers.

Second, other primary causes are not clear (at least in this news report). Could there be something prior to both sleep problems and depression that contributes to both? If so, then the relationship claimed between the two is spurious.

Third, the causation is wildly unclear. It seems just as likely that people who have (or end up with) depression don't sleep well as a RESULT of that condition. Or, more likely, the depression and the sleep problems are interactive.

In any case, one wonders whether anxious parents desperate to get their children to sleep might end up contributing to mental health problems that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

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