A study just published online by the journal Schizophrenia Research has found a marked relationship between insomnia and paranoia in both the general public and in patients with psychosis.
The study, led by psychologist Daniel Freeman, was cross-sectional, meaning they just looked at whether the two things were associated and so it can’t say for definite which causes which.
In other words, it’s impossible to say whether lack of sleep triggers paranoia, or whether paranoid thoughts are more likely to keep us up at night.
However, the study also measured anxiety, known to affect sleep, and it accounted for part but not all of the sleeplessness, suggesting that both paranoia and insomnia probably feed into each other.
Sleep has an interesting relationship to mental illness. While sleeplessness and disturbed circadian rhythms have been linked to mood disorders for many years, sleep deprivation is known to have an antidepressant effect and is sometimes used to treat the most severe cases of depression.
By the way, the title of the post is taken from the lyrics to Faithless’ dancefloor masterpiece Insomnia which also gives a wonderful description of insomnia fuelled paranoia – although I suspect it also refers to the after effects of a night of drugs-based clubbing so probably not exactly what the researchers had in mind.
Link to PubMed entry for study.
Full disclosure: Two of the study authors are research collaborators.