Sleep Deprivation Effects Can Mimic Mental Illness
If you have ever suffered from a poor night's sleep, you may recall how difficult it was to function at your normal level. In fact, sleep deprivation can cause healthy people to experience emotions and behavior that is associated with mental illness.
A recent study observed healthy people who missed just one night's sleep. Volunteers stayed up all night and until 5 pm the following day. Then, their brains were scanned while they viewed gory images such as mutilated bodies or children with tumors. The researchers found that, compared with a control group, the sleep-deprived group showed more activity in the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in processing fear and other emotions. It is thought that the amygdala was more active in the sleep deprived group because the prefrontal cortex was disrupted, impairing its ability to lower amygdala activity.
According to the study leader, Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, similar disruption is seen in patients with depression and post traumatic stress disorder. "It is thought that psychiatric conditions create sleep problems," he stated. "We should entertain the possibility that it is a sleep disorder that is creating the condition."