In healthy adults, overnight sleep deprivation triggered anxiety the next morning, along with altered brain activity patterns, scientists reported November 4 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
People with anxiety disorders often have trouble sleeping. The new results uncover the reverse effect — that poor sleep can induce anxiety. The study shows that “this is a two-way interaction,” says Clifford Saper, a sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston who wasn’t involved in the study. “The sleep loss makes the anxiety worse, which in turn makes it harder to sleep.”
Sleep researchers Eti Ben Simon and Matthew Walker, both of the University of California, Berkeley, studied the anxiety levels of 18 healthy people. Following either a night of sleep or a night of staying awake, these people took anxiety tests the next morning. After sleep deprivation, anxiety levels in these healthy people were 30 percent higher than when they had slept. On average, the anxiety scores reached levels seen in people with anxiety disorders, Ben Simon said November 5 in a news briefing.
睡眠问题研究员、加州大学伯克利分校的Eti Ben Simon和Matthew Walker分析了18名健康的实验志愿者的焦虑水平。无论是沉入梦乡还是一夜未眠，都会在第二天早上对他们进行焦虑测试。剥夺睡眠后，这些健康人的焦虑水平比正常睡眠时高30%。Ben Simon在11月5日的新闻发布会上说，平均而言，他们的焦虑表现评分达到了焦虑症患者的水平。
What’s more, sleep-deprived people’s brain activity changed. In response to emotional videos, brain areas involved in emotions were more active, and the prefrontal cortex, an area that can put the brakes on anxiety, was less active, functional MRI scans showed.
The results suggest that poor sleep “is more than just a symptom” of anxiety, but in some cases, may be a cause, Ben Simon said.