Monday, December 03, 2007

you just fell asleep, this is your dream

Psychologist Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, says that “almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep.'’ But, he says that scientists previously believed the psychiatric problems triggered the sleep issues. New research from his lab, however, suggests the reverse is the case; that is, a lack of shut-eye is causing some psychological disturbances. (…)

“There seems to be a causal relationship between impaired sleep and some of the psychiatric symptomatology and disorders that we’re seeing,” says Robert Stickgold, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in this study. He cites research linking sleep apnea, in which breathing is disrupted, to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the evidence of a connection between depression and insomnia as examples. “It might be that those medial frontal regions tell the rest of the brain, ‘You can chill,’” he says. “Those circuits become exhausted or altered after a lack of sleep.”

“I think we may start to think about a new potential function for sleep,” says Walker. “It does actually prepare our emotional brains for next-day social and emotional interactions.

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