Losing Your Mind Over Lack of Sleep?

by admin on March 1, 2010

Well, actually…  you might be doing exactly that.

A recent study, published by Biological Psychiatry compared the white and gray matter volumes of 24 older, chronic insomnia patients to 13 normal sleepers, and controlled for physical and psychiatric disorders that could alter brain densities.  They found that severe insomniacs exhibited the most extensive density loss, regardless of how long they had suffered from the disorder.

They can’t make the call on what causes what.. the order this happens in…  yet.

Original source:  Ellemarijie Altena, lead author of the study from the Netherlands Institute of Neuroscience. 

Here’s the link if you want to read more:


The article specifically is “Reduced Orbitofrontal and Pariental Gray Matter in Chronic Insomnia:  A Voxel-Based Morphometric Study” by Ellemarije Altena, Hugo Vrenken, Ysbrand D. Van Der Werf, Odile A. van den Heuvel, and Eus J.W. Van Someren.  The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 67, Issue 2 (January 15, 2010), published by Elsevier.

And for a more detailed report in Elsevier, go here:


What I found most interesting in this study, was that the areas of the brain affected were the ones involved in:

  • evaluating the pleasantness of stimuli, and
  • the brains ‘resting state’

and they might therefore have difficulty recognising “optimal comfort to fall asleep”.

Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biolgoical Psychiatry, commented, that “insomnia is a common feature of nearly every psychiatric condition associated with reduced cortical volume; in fact, it is a common symptom of psychiatric disorders or high levels of life stress, generally”.

My apologies for bringing news of detrimental effects on the microstructure of the brain to your attention, to make you more stressed about your best night’s sleep…. but… it is my mission to educate.



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