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?’.