An image of young psychiatrist comforting her sad patient, who has schizophrenia.

Researchers discover interesting results concerning sleep and schizophrenia.

A lack of sleep has a drastic effect on the body. It can cause several debilitating conditions. In order to prepare for the diseases that develop from sleep deprivation, scientists are constantly studying their connection to sleep. A recent study looks into the link between sleep and schizophrenia.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. This disorder causes severe mental health issues, including hearing voices, abnormal social behavior, confusion, and an inability to determine what is real. Unfortunately, this can lead to other mental conditions, making life harder for an individual.

BIDMC’s Study

“One of the most exciting advances in sleep research over the last decade has been the growing understanding of sleep’s causal relationship to psychiatric disorders,” said senior author Robert Stickgold, MD, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at BIDMC. “Here, we reviewed the evidence that reduced sleep spindle activity predates the onset of schizophrenia and contributes to its cognitive deficits and other symptoms.”

Sleep spindles are burst of brain activity, which helps people conserve memory during sleep. Scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center decided to research its connection to the troubling mental disorder. Surprisingly, the mental disorder might not be the cause of sleep disturbances. Instead, researchers found the opposite. Sleep conditions are most likely at fault, causing schizophrenia.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that sleep not only controls memory and emotional processing in all of us, but that deficits in sleep probably contribute to a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and depression,” Stickgold said. “Now we can begin tracing it all the way from the genes to the disorders themselves.”

Schizophrenia can be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Researchers believe that one gene variant, which affects a calcium channel located near the area of the brain that generates sleep spindles, is responsible for the defect. If scientists can get this gene working correctly, then they may find a feasible treatment option.