Sleeplessness makes you paranoid, and vice versa

New research shows that people with insomnia are five times more likely to be highly paranoid than those who are well-rested. The study was conducted by Wellcome Trust fellow Daniel Freeman who has co-written what promises to be a fascinating new book, Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear. (Excerpt here.) The results of Freeman's latest scientific study were published in the journal Schizophrenia Research. From Science Daily:

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"As most of us know, a few nights of poor sleep can make us feel stressed, muddled in our thinking and disconnected from the world," says Dr Freeman. "These are ideal conditions for paranoid fears to take hold. Regular, good-quality sleep is important to our psychological wellbeing."

Although the study shows a clear link between the two conditions, it is unclear which causes the other. Clinical experience indicates that there is a vicious cycle: insomnia makes us anxious and fearful, and these feelings make it harder for us to sleep.

Dr Freeman believes that the research points to a potential treatment for helping to reduce the risk of developing persecutory thoughts.

"The good news is that there are several tried-and-tested ways to overcome insomnia," he says. "In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has proven benefits. The intriguing implication of the research is that use of the sleep techniques may also make us feel safer and less mistrustful during the day. A good night's sleep may simply make us view the world in a much more positive light."

"Macbeth's Curse: Link Between Sleeplessness And Paranoia Identified" (Science Daily), Paranoia: The 21st Century Fear (Amazon)