New research reveals the critical role of healthy sleep patterns for our mental health. Doctors and scientists know that sleep disorders are linked with many mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, dementia, and even brain injury. These disruptions are often seen as a side effect of the particular mental disorder; however, new findings suggest that disrupted sleep-wake cycles can also exacerbate brain pathology.  The study was carried out by the Society for Neuroscience and presented in their annual meeting on November 5th, 2018. The Society for Neuroscience is considered one the leading and most extensive sources of news about brain science and mental health.

The study aims to understand better the brain mechanisms linked to disrupted sleep and irregular circadian rhythms, and hopefully, discover new ways to prevent and alleviate disorders that are affected by irregular circadian rhythms such as anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia. Even though scientists still don’t have a clear understanding of how sleep exacerbates certain brain disorders, the research emphasizes the importance of prioritizing healthy and regular sleep.

At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, researchers have, among other topics, studied and presented the impact of brain concussion after more extended periods of sleep deprivation, and found out that brain injuries negatively affect circadian rhythms. The brain mechanisms which may worsen anxiety in sleep-deprived individuals were also presented. More research has to be conducted, but studies so far indicate that deep slow-wave sleep is required to calm the overactive regions of the mind. Lastly, neuroscientists have discovered that astrocytes, a circadian clock gene, play an important role in Alzheimer’s pathology. Disruption of the circadian rhythm on a cellular level can lead to neuroinflammation and exacerbate mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

Among other findings, all studies presented at this year’s annual meeting help us understand why sleep is disrupted in so many patients suffering from mental or brain issues. Treatments that regulate circadian rhythms, such as sleep-focused therapies may be beneficial in preventing a number of brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and anxiety. This furthermore emphasizes the vital role of sleep for our physical and mental wellbeing.

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