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Ryan LCSW
Ryan LCSW, Mental Health
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Individual and Family Therapist
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Can Insomnia cause Schizophrenia?

Customer Question

Can lack of sleep/no sleep at all cause schizophrenia or trigger it? I know lack of sleep can cause hallucinations and irrational thoughts but can it cause permanent psychosis or does it go away once the person gets enough sleep. I think it goes away once their brain rests. Really what I want to know is my bad insomnia I am having going to eventually make me schizophrenic? I worry about falling asleep at night but don't want to worry about going insane from little to no sleep.

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for your question,

Schizophrenia is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, so even though it may feel like you are going insane at times, your insomnia is not going to cause schizophrenia. You are correct that insomnia can cause hallucinations and irrational thoughts. If the insomnia persists long enough it can certainly produce symptoms that are similar to schizophrenia, but it would not produce the long term chemical imbalance. There are situations where people have had traumatic experiences during periods of insomnia, and in that way insomnia can sometimes have a lasting effect on people even after the insomnia is over. However typically once there are no long sleeping difficulties a person's brain functioning tends to return to normal fairly quickly. I definitely wish you the best with all of this, and if there's anything else I can do to help please let me know.

Ryan
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

I have just had this bad bout of sleep anxiety where I worry about not getting enough sleep will cause me to eventually become mentally ill. So even with severe cases of insomnia, once sleep is found the person is back to normal functioning?

Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 1 year ago.
Once sleep is restored you should return to normal functioning fairly quickly. Insomnia can certainly feel like mental illness while you are experiencing it, but it is not going to be the cause of mental illness.
Ryan LCSW, Mental Health
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 872
Experience: Individual and Family Therapist
Ryan LCSW and 4 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Sorry to bother you but could you take a look at this article. This was the main reason I was concerned. http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2012/8943.html

Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 1 year ago.
The article mentions the connection between sleep deprivation and the symptoms of schizophrenia which is something that has been known for quite a while, that being the hallucinations, irrational thoughts etc. "Symptoms" is the important distinction to make, and while the article and a doctor make some speculations about sleep deprivation possibly causing schizophrenia, there doesn't seem to be any research to support this idea. If there was a definitive link shown between a lack of sleep causing schizophrenia it would be major news in the mental health world, however this connection seems to be this particular person's hypothesis, and there is no evidence to my knowledge that would support this.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Yeah I agree. If this article were true I feel like there would be a lot more cases of schizophrenia developing considering insomnia is pretty prevalent.

Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 1 year ago.
Agreed. To experience a period of insomnia is not terribly uncommon, and is much more common than a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hey Ryan, last little question. Regarding that article about poor sleep and schizophrenia, do you think they are referring to people who are already susceptible through genetics or environmental factors that are going to develop this illness through lack of sleep, such as people who would have already gotten it? Sorry if I'm being a little repetitive I'm just trying to wrap my head around this fully.

Expert:  Ryan LCSW replied 1 year ago.
No problem and sorry for the delay in getting back to you. People who already have schizophrenia or have the potential to develop schizophrenia may have symptoms triggered by insomnia. Insomnia may also trigger symptoms similar to schizophrenia in people who don't have schizophrenia, but what those people are experiencing is really just a side effect of the insomnia. Hope that helps,

Ryan

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