Lack of Sleep Linked to Mental Illnesses

Oct 24, 2007
Scientists discovered that sleep deprivation can lead to the development of mental disorders.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California at Berkeley used brain scans to find out how brain is affected by sleep deprivation causing tiredness and abnormal emotional reactions.

During a study 35 volunteers who were deprived of sleep for 35 hours while their emotional response was examined with the help of fMRI(functional magnetic resonance imaging) method. Participants had to look at the images that were aimed at evoking certain emotional response. After and during sleep deprivation period, the brain scans measured the activity of different parts of the brain.

As a result, brain scans of most participants showed that activity of part of the brain that is responsible for emotional reactions called amygdala was 60 higher for sleep-deprived participants than those who didn't have a lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation is known to affect body functioning in many ways, like undermining immune system regulation and metabolism. It is also linked to poor learning and memory. However, it remained unclear how lack of sleep can influence emotional response closely related to psychiatric disorders.

Matthew Walker, one of the leading researchers said that sleeplessness causes brain to return to more primitive patterns of activity, making emotional response inadequate and out of control. These findings shed light on the development of mental disorders and prove the importance of sleep for physical and mental health.

The research was published in the journal Current Biology.
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