A news report from the Independent examines the relationship between mental illness and sleep.
The relationship between mental illness and sleep and circadian rhythm disruption was first described in the late 19th century by the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin. Today, such disruption is reported in as many as 80% of patients with schizophrenia, and is increasingly recognised as one of the most common features of the disorder.
Yet despite its prevalence in mental illness, sleep disruption has been largely ignored, dismissed as a consequence of either social isolation, lack of employment, anti-psychotic medication. However, our team has explored this assumption and showed that sleep and circadian-rhythm disruption in patients with conditions such as schizophrenia persists independently of anti-psychotic medication and that it cannot be explained on the basis of social isolation or lack of employment. These results led us to suggest that mental illness and sleep disruption may share common and overlapping pathways in the brain.
The sleep and circadian timing system is the product of a complex interaction between multiple brain regions, neurotransmitters and hormones. As a consequence, abnormalities in any of these neurotransmitter systems will likely have an impact on sleep and circadian timing at several levels.