Inadequate sleep has been associated with binge eating, road accidents, and even stroke risk, but a new study featured on ScienceDaily.com reports that sleep deprivation may also increase anxiety.

Researchers from University of California, Berkeley used an MRI machine to scan the brains of 18 young adults, while they viewed a series of pleasant, neutral, and disturbing images after a full night's rest and after a sleepless night.  

Anticipatory anxiety was triggered by one of three visual cues: a red sign meant that the following image would be disturbing, a yellow sign signaled a neutral scene, while a white question mark, which aimed to heighten the feeling of suspense, indicated that the next picture would either a disturbing or a neutral scene.

Based on the scan results, brain activity in both the amygdala and the insular cortex—parts of the brain that process emotions—increased when the sleep-deprived subjects anticipated either a disturbing or neutral image. The effects were worse for those who were innate worrywarts, as constant lack of sleep in such individuals may cause anxiety disorders.

Researchers believe, however, that this discovery is potentially good news for those who deal from anxiety attacks. “By restoring good quality sleep in people suffering from anxiety, we may be able to help ameliorate their excessive worry and disabling fearful expectations," says senior study author Matthew Walker.

(Photo by zizzy0104 via sxc.hu)


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