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Jan 23, 2012

Sleep Problems Correlated With Schizophrenia

Adequate levels of restful sleep are not just any luxury to be taken for granted, they’re actually essential for an optimal functioning mind and body.  Although studies have already correlated sleep disturbances with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD, research has apparently for the first time ever found a connection between sleep problems and schizophrenia.
In a small scale study, the sleep patterns of twenty participants with schizophrenia were compared to those of twenty-one healthy participants.  The study took place in a community setting over the period of several weeks, rather than in a hospital setting over the period of days, making this a unique study of its kind.  In all individuals with schizophrenia, extreme sleep disturbances were observed, even independent of medication and social isolation.   
Those with schizophrenia experienced difficulty falling asleep, stayed in bed and slept longer, and showed significantly more variability in sleep patterns compared with the non-schizophrenia group.  About 50 percent of participants in the schizophrenia group had reversed sleep patterns where they would often sleep during daytime hours and remain awake and alert during the night. 
Whether or not there is a causal or purely associative relationship between sleep disturbances, schizophrenia, and other mental problems remains in question, however, we do know that brain chemicals and common neurotransmitter pathways are being influenced in cases of chronic poor sleep.  Professor Russell Foster of Oxford University points out, “…Regardless of whether or not there is a mechanistic link between the body clock and psychiatric conditions, it is clear that treating sleep problems could improve the lives of many patients.”
Researchers who were involved in this study concluded that psychiatric care should include efforts to improve sleep quality in patients due to the probable positive impact on mental and overall health.  This study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.   
Dr. Shana McQueen