In an ongoing study at the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is revealing some interesting results about the effect sleep deprivation and insomnia has on an individuals ability to regulate their own emotions. The study, which uses fMRi analysis shows that people with insomnia and sleep deprivation have much higher levels of activation in the amygdala (the fear control centre of the brain) whilst engaged in emotion regulation tasks. This may be the first neurological evidence backing up other research that shows that people suffering from insomnia and sleep deprivation appear to have to work harder to successfully regulate their emotions than people with normal sleep patterns. Further there is a strong suggestion that the difficulties people with chronic sleep deprivation face regulating their emotions is as a result of alterations created in the brain's circuitry.
Now the question is, do the alterations cause sleep problems or do sleep problems cause the changes in the brains functioning. There is some evidence from other studies that both (bidirectionally) can happen. Sleep deprivation over a prolonged time can cause changes in the brains wiring and changes in the brain makes insomnia more likely.
In any event this study provides even more evidence about the links between sleep our ability to regulate our emotions and how insufficient sleep may contribute to the onset of emotional difficulties as well as the development of depression and other psychological and psychiatric problems.
I am currently putting together a sleep pack to help those with sleep difficulties get more sleep. If you are interested getting details of the sleep pack once it is finished just pop your details into the boxes below and I will send you details once the pack is ready.
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Franzen PL, et al, (2013) Elevated amygdala activation during voluntary emotion regulation in primary insomnia. 27th Joint Conference of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and The Sleep Research Society Baltimore June 1-5 2013.