Sleep deprivation may be linked to mental disorder schizophrenia, a new study suggests.
In the study, healthy people who didn't sleep for a whole night exhibited symptoms, similar to schizophrenia.
"It was clear to us that a sleepless night leads to impairment in the ability to concentrate," Prof. Dr. Ulrich Ettinger from the University of Bonn, Germany said in a news release. "But we were surprised at how pronounced and how wide the spectrum of schizophrenia-like symptoms was."
Individuals afflicted with schizophrenia experience difficulty in differentiating the real from the unreal, thinking clearly, dealing with social situations normally and possessing normal emotional responses.
The condition usually starts appearing during adolescence. Having a family history, being born to an old father, malnutrition or maternal exposure to toxins or viruses in pregnancy and increased immune system activation are some of the factors that increase the risk of the mental disorder, according to Mayo Clinic in US. It is crucial to treat the condition early as it can lead to aggressive behaviour, depression and even suicide.
For the study, researchers from University of Bonn and King's College London in UK looked at 24 healthy people aged between 18 and 40. During the study, the participants, who were kept awake the whole night, revealed their thoughts and feelings in the morning.
Participants also underwent a test called prepulse inhibition to measure the filtering function of the brain. "The prepulse inhibition demonstrates an important function of the brain: Filters separate what is important from what is not important and prevent sensory overload," lead author of the study Dr. Nadine Petrovsky, said.
After the sleepless night, most of the participants reported more sensitivity to light, colour; mental blocks; ability to read thoughts; altered body perception. Researchers also noticed changes in their sense of time and sense of smell. "There were pronounced attention deficits, such as what typically occurs in the case of schizophrenia. The unselected flood of information led to chaos in the brain." Prof. Ettinger, said.
"We did not expect that the symptoms could be so pronounced after one night spent awake," he, added.
The study has been reported in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Sound sleep plays a major role in health. Following are some research-proven risks associated with lack of getting a goodnight's sleep:
- Heart problems
- Poor memory , concentration
- Prostate cancer
- Lowered brain volume
- Caesarean birth
- Alzheimer's disease