Sleep deprivation may lead to higher anxiety levels, fMRI scans show

June 10, 2012

New research shows that sleep loss markedly exaggerates the degree to which we anticipate impending emotional events, particularly among highly anxious people, who are especially vulnerable.

Two common features of are sleep loss and an amplification of emotional response. Results from the new study suggest that these features may not be independent of one another but may interact instead.

Researchers from the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, used brain scanning on 18 healthy adults in two separate sessions, one after a normal night's sleep and a second after a night of sleep deprivation. During both sessions, participants were exposed to an emotional task that involved a period of anticipating a potentially (an unpleasant ) or a potentially benign experience (a neutral visual image).

The fMRI scans showed that sleep deprivation significantly amplified the build-up of anticipatory activity in deep emotional brain centers, especially the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with responding to negative and unpleasant experiences. In some of these emotional centers of the brain, sleep deprivation detrimentally triggered an increase in anticipatory reaction by more than 60 percent.

In addition, the researchers found that the strength of this sleep deprivation effect was related to how naturally anxious the participants were. Those people who were more anxious showed the greatest vulnerability to the aggravating effects of sleep deprivation. The results suggest that anxiety may significantly elevate the emotional dysfunction and risk associated with insufficient sleep.

"Anticipation is a fundamental brain process, a common across numerous species," said Andrea Goldstein, lead author of the study and a graduate student in the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory. "Our results suggest that just one night of significantly alters the optimal functioning of this essential brain process, especially among anxious individuals. This is perhaps never more relevant considering the continued erosion of sleep time that continues to occur across society."

Explore further: MRI scans show how sleep loss affects the ability to choose proper foods

More information: The abstract "Tired, anxious and expecting the worst: The impact of sleep deprivation and anxiety on emotional brain anticipation" is being presented today at SLEEP 2012, the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) in Boston.

Related Stories

MRI scans show how sleep loss affects the ability to choose proper foods

June 10, 2012
MRI scans from a study being presented today at SLEEP 2012 reveal how sleep deprivation impairs the higher-order regions in the human brain where food choices are made, possibly helping explain the link between sleep loss ...

Brain scans show specific neuronal response to junk food when sleep-restricted

June 10, 2012
The sight of unhealthy food during a period of sleep restriction activated reward centers in the brain that were less active when participants had adequate sleep, according to a new study using brain scans to better understand ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find common psychological traits in group of Italians aged 90 to 101

December 12, 2017
In remote Italian villages nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains lives a group of several hundred citizens over the age of 90. Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San ...

New therapy can help schizophrenia sufferers re-engage socially

December 11, 2017
A new therapy aimed at helping young people suffering from schizophrenia to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, according to a new University of Sussex-led study.

Certain books can increase infant learning during shared reading, study shows

December 11, 2017
Parents and pediatricians know that reading to infants is a good thing, but new research shows reading books that clearly name and label people and objects is even better.

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

Many different types of anxiety and depression exist, new study finds

December 8, 2017
Five new categories of mental illness that cut across the current more broad diagnoses of anxiety and depression have been identified by researchers in a Stanford-led study.

Study sheds light on the voices in our head

December 8, 2017
New research showing that talking to ourselves in our heads may be the same as speaking our thoughts out loud could help explain why people with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia hear voices.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.