Sleep deprivation increases anxiety

Researchers from the Sleep and Neuro-imaging Laboratory at the University of California have reported their latest findings that sleep deprivation heightens symptoms of anxiety.

Common symptoms of anxiety include sleep loss and an intensification of emotional responses. This study has found, that unlike previously thought, these two major features of anxiety are interrelated and strongly impact one another.

The research used fMRI brain scanning on 18 healthy individuals in two separate testing sessions. The first session was after a normal, undisrupted night’s sleep and a second testing session after a night of sleep deprivation.

In each session participants were asked to complete a task that was emotionally charged. It also included a period of time in which the individual was anticipating a potentially negative experience or a potentially neutral event.

The results demonstrated that the deprivation of sleep increased the anticipatory response in regions of the brain known to be involved in the processing of negative or unpleasant emotional experiences. In some regions sleep deprivation amplified the response by as much as 60 percent.

It was also reported that the extent that sleep deprivation impacted anxiety responses was dependent on how naturally anxious each individual was. People who had previously showed anxious characteristics saw the greatest impact of sleep deprivation. It was subsequently concluded that anxiety enhances emotional dysfunction which can in turn cause sleep disturbances.

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