Apparently, insomnia may reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to researchers at the University of Massachusetts, PTSD can be reduced or even prevented if the individual in question experiences sleep deprivation.
The study involved 106 individuals - 68 women and 38 men, all aged between 18 and 30. The participants were shown a number of pictures, some of which contained gruesome or disturbing images involving crime scenes and threats of violence, and were asked to rate their emotional response to the images.
After 12 hours, the participants were shown another set of pictures that included some of the disturbing images used previously. Again, they were asked to rate their response.
One of the groups was shown both sets of pictures on the same day. The other group saw the first set late at night and the second set early the following morning.
Researchers found that those who slept between viewings had a longer lasting negative impression of the disturbing images. Those who saw both sets of images the same day had a greatly reduced emotional reaction when shown the second set of pictures.
This research suggests that sleep may preserve and even reinforce negative memories or experiences. It is thought that by not sleeping, the additional information that's absorbed by the brain effectively dilutes the negative memories.
Of course, this was only a small study - and participants only saw disturbing pictures; a far cry from seeing similar scenes in real life. Furthermore, if sleep deprivation dilutes negative memories, it could also be diluting all memories!
That being said, perhaps this research will lead to larger scale studies that could help us determine whether it's possible to reduce PTSD risk by avoiding sleep for a certain amount of time.
Source: The Journal of Neuroscience
Last updated: March 30, 2012