Schizophrenia and Sleep Problems

The possible link between poor sleep and schizophrenia is being studied by researchers from the University of Bristol. Scientists are exploring the impact of irregular sleep patterns on the brain by recording electrical brain activity in multiple brain regions during sleep.

Sleep deprivation can affect mood, concentration and stress levels. In extreme cases, prolonged sleep deprivation can induce hallucinations, memory loss and confusion all of which are also symptoms associated with schizophrenia.  A study published in the journal Neuron looks at the link between poor sleep and schizophrenia found that irregular sleep patterns and desynchronised brain activity during sleep could trigger some of the disease’s symptoms and suggests that these prolonged disturbances might be a cause and not just a consequence of the disorder’s debilitating effects.

Decoupling of brain regions involved in memory formation and decision-making during wakefulness are already implicated in schizophrenia, however if some of the decoupling occurs during sleep, this may provide a new mechanistic explanation for the cognitive deficits observed in both the animal model and patients and suggests that possibly abnormal sleep patterns may trigger abnormal brain activity in a range of conditions.

Cognitive deficits symptoms such as reduced short term memory and attention span, have been typically resistant to medication in patients. The findings from this study may provide new approaches for neurocognitive therapy in schizophrenia and related psychiatric diseases.

Volume 76, Issue 3, Pages 463-668 (8 November 2012)