There is new research suggesting that psychiatric disorders such as post traumatic stress (PTSD), attention deficit disorder and depression could be caused by inadequate sleep.

Here is an interesting case involving a woman who became convinced that her insomnia was directly responsible for her increasing downward plunge into a state where she actually felt her sense of sanity ebbing away :

A woman named Louise, age 38, a copywriter and mother of two from north London, was first made aware of some of her own erratic behavior when a downstairs neighbor directly below her began banging on her door complaining about water pouring in from the downstairs neighbor’s ceiling. Louise had forgotten to turn off her bath water, which was now overflowing, but even more significant—she had no recollection of ever turning it on.

Was this just a case of extreme forgetfulness, perhaps caused by a lack of sleep? Or was it a sign of mental illness caused by insomnia? An article in the New Scientist suggests the possibility that insomnia might have a direct link to mental illness.

Louise was convinced that the insomnia was not a side effect of, but the actual cause of her mental state. She existed on only four hours’ sleep a night relying on watching old films to make her sleepy.

She was not just losing a night of sleep here and there; it became a consistent pattern every night in a relentless downward spiral. She began seeing things that weren’t there and her sanity felt like it was slipping away slowly but surely. She became obsessive compulsive with trivial repetitive actions like continually checking her Facebook account all during the night, craving some form of human interaction from the outside world—a desperation to have human contact.

She finally got help with a prescription for anti-depressants to combat her anxiety.

A study conducted out of the University of California, Berkeley, involved showing increasingly disturbing images to two groups of participants—those who had normal sleep and those who were sleep deprived for thirty-five hours.

The amygdala of the brain, the center for emotions, showed approximately 60% more activity in the sleep deprived group. Also, the amygdala and frontal lobe connection of the brain was disrupted. The frontal lobe puts the reigns on the brain’s emotions; the sleep-deprived group had much less control over their emotions.

So, yes. This study suggests that chronic lack of sleep can lead to the development of mental illness. If you have chronic problems sleeping, check out the Sleep Hygiene articles, or maybe it is time to see a professional.

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