Sleep and psychopathology

New Scientist has a fascinating article on sleep and mental illness. While it’s long been known that mental illness can disrupt sleep the article discusses the much less explored connection where loss of sleep might trigger symptoms of mental illness in some.

Until recently, however, the assumption that poor sleep was a symptom rather than a cause of mental illness was so strong that nobody questioned it. “It was just so easy to say about a patient, well, he’s depressed or schizophrenic, of course he’s not sleeping well – and never to ask whether there could be a causal relationship the other way,” says Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher at Harvard University. Even when studies did seem to point in the other direction, the findings were largely overlooked, he says.

Scientifically, sleep and mental illness have been long linked. Theories of bipolar disorder as a disruption to circadian rhythms have been kicking round for years and treatments that reduce disruption to sleep routines are known to have a therapeutic effect.

The NewSci article reviews various studies that suggest sleep problems can increase risk for mental illness, but it doesn’t mention an equally interesting link.

We also know that sleep deprivation can help otherwise untreatable mood disorders. For example, missing a night’s sleep can be used as a treatment in depression.

Link to article ‘Are bad sleeping habits driving us mad?’.

One Comment

  1. Sean Stimpfle
    Posted December 21, 2013 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Of course people get psychotic when they don’t sleep. That is what causes the illness is lack of sleep. Today the emphasis is on neuroleptic drugs, but these drugs all hve one thing in common, they help the patient sleep.

    Its proven that the fastest way to make someone mentally ill, is to take away their sleep.

    Being depressed, anger, and such are all classified as mentall illness.

    If the mentally ill can be taught to sleep, they would not need medication.


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