9 Signs You're Way Too Stressed
Lack of Sleep May Cause Emotional Misfires in the Brain
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If you have insomnia and depression, it may turn out that the two conditions are linked. A recent study has provided evidence that when a person suffers from chronic sleep problems – difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia) – the part of the brain that helps to regulate our emotions doesn't function properly.
One thing that researchers have found over and over again is that those who suffer from problems sleeping often suffer from depression. The connection is so strong that even when a person with insomnia doesn't suffer from depression, they are considered at risk for developing the condition later on. This study has added to the evidence that the brain's ability to regulate our emotions is affected when we don't sleep enough.
The study involved the use of a functional MRI, a test that allowed researchers to see what parts of the brain were active during a series of tests. The participants in the study were a mix of individuals who suffered from insomnia and those with no difficulty sleeping. The test consisted of having to view images that would evoke negative emotions. In one test, the participants merely viewed the pictures. In the second test, they were asked to reevaluate what they saw in the pictures to try and make the images appear less negative.
The part of the brain that does much of the work for us when it comes to our emotions is called the amygdala. It helps to keep our emotions regulated and under control. It allows us to process our feelings. During the tests, this was the part of the brain that was stressed by lack of sleep, particularly when the insomnia patients were trying to reevaluate the negative pictures. The passive test didn't create a big difference. It wasn't being presented with something negative that was difficult to deal with for the sleepless patients, it was trying to look on the bright side or emotionally deal with what they were seeing. Those who slept better, on the other hand, handled both tasks well.
What do the results mean? One in 10, possibly as many as 1 in 7, adults in the U.S. suffer from insomnia. This condition has a definitive effect on a person's ability to deal with troubling emotions. Perhaps this explains why about 1 in 15 suffer from clinical depression. As a side note, both conditions are more commonly experienced by women.
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