The study sheds new light on the relationship between sleep and mental health.
- Poor sleep has been linked to many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and a shortened lifespan.
- A new study suggests that poor sleep also impairs the brain's ability to suppress unwanted thoughts.
- The researchers suspect this is because not getting enough sleep disrupts the brain's executive control functions.
Study procedures and tasks.
Credit: Harrington et al.<p>The participants were shown faces in either a green or red frame. The green frame indicated "think," meaning the participants should try to remember the image associated with that particular face. In contrast, red meant "no think," make your mind go blank — and if a thought pops up, try to get rid of it.</p><p>Then one group slept for about eight hours, while the other didn't sleep at all. In the morning, both groups completed the think/no-think task. The sleep-deprived group was far less able to keep intrusive thoughts out of their minds, despite the fact that both groups performed equally well the night before in a mock think/no-think task.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Strikingly, the sleep-deprivation group suffered a proportional increase in intrusions of nearly 50% relative to the sleep group, revealing how deficient control may be a pathway to hyperaccessible thoughts," the researchers wrote.</p><p>As the experiment went along, both groups became increasingly successful at suppressing unwanted thoughts. But the sleep-deprived group was less successful. The results showed a similar effect on relapses of intrusive thoughts (which were prompted by showing the same visual cue multiple times during the experiment): Both groups became better at suppressing relapses over time, but the no-sleep group had a harder time blocking relapses.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...sleep deprivation diminished the cumulative benefits of retrieval suppression for down-regulating subsequent intrusions," the researchers wrote. "Even after sleep-deprived participants initially gained control over unwanted memories and prevented them from intruding, they were consistently more susceptible to relapses when reminders were confronted again later compared with rested individuals."</p><p>In addition to having difficulty suppressing intrusive thoughts, the sleep-deprived group also seemed to be more negatively affected by those thoughts, based on subjective reports from the participants and skin-conductance responses recorded by the researchers.</p><p>Although the study didn't use brain imaging, the researchers noted that sleep deprivation may impair memory suppression by disrupting functional interactions between various parts of the brain, including "the [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] (and possibly [medial prefrontal cortex]) and [medial temporal lobe] structures such as the hippocampus and amygdala during retrieval suppression, impairing inhibitory control over memory and affect, increasing intrusions, and decreasing affect suppression."</p>
A potentially vicious cycle<p>The findings could shed light on how poor sleep interacts with psychiatric conditions, including major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder, to name a few.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Insufficient sleep might increase memory intrusions while also nullifying the benefits of retrieval suppression for regulating affect," the researchers wrote. "The onset of intrusive thoughts and affective dysfunction following bouts of poor sleep could create a vicious cycle whereby upsetting intrusions and emotional distress exacerbate sleep problems, inhibiting the sleep needed to support recovery."</p><p>Fortunately, evidence suggests people can get better at suppressing intrusive thoughts. For example, a <a href="https://doi.apa.org/fulltext/2018-34715-001.html" target="_blank">2018 study</a> found that college students who reported having experienced high levels of trauma were better at suppressing unwanted thoughts compared to students who had led relatively trauma-free lives. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...given proper training, individuals can learn to better manage intrusive experiences, and are broadly consistent with the view that moderate adversity can foster resilience later in life," wrote the researchers behind the 2018 study.</p><p>The team behind the recent study similarly noted that people with major depressive disorder might benefit from interventions where they learned strategies for suppressing unwanted thoughts.</p>
How to get better sleep<p>No matter your ability to suppress unwanted thoughts, getting good sleep (seven to eight hours for most adults) is one of the most consequential health decisions you can make. Harvard Medical School offers <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/8-tips-to-a-good-nights-sleep" target="_blank">eight tips</a> for getting better sleep:<br></p><ul><li>Exercise at some point during the day.</li><li>Reserve your bed for sleep and sex—not work or TV.</li><li>Keep the bedroom comfortable.</li><li>Start a sleep ritual.</li><li>Have a bedtime snack—but not too much.</li><li>Avoid alcohol and chocolate before bed.</li><li>Wind down before going to bed.</li><li>See your doctor about what's keeping you up at night.</li></ul>
'Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.'
There has been a dramatic increase in abuse and misuse.
- Benzodiazepine usage has increased in 2020 due to the pandemic.
- The FDA is requiring new label warnings due to increased abuse and misuse of benzos.
- Drugs like Valium and Xanax are approved for short-term use only, yet many are on them for years and even decades.
Benzodiazepine Dependence and Withdrawal - How To Avoid This<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5d7bbe438225de9f24d0ac75dc3710e2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/qKpz91hYkvU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Since the early '50s, tranquilizer and sedative abuse has been a common yet under-discussed phenomenon in American society. The first blockbuster drug was Miltown. In 1955, meprobamate, a derivative of the short-acting mephenesin, was brought to market. Discovered by Czechoslovakian pharmacologist Frank Berger while developing a penicillin preservative, he noticed mephenesin calmed rats without knocking them out. In 1950, Berger moved from the UK to Cranbury, New Jersey where he developed meprobamate alongside chemist Bernard John Ludwig. By 1957, a billion pills of this drug, now called Miltown, were being produced.</p><p>Then the fire went out. In the sixties, Miltown was reclassified as a sedative. The manufacturers were sued for monopolizing the tranquilizer market. Doctors eventually recognized the risks outweighed the benefits. Miltown addicts flooded treatment centers. Instead of understanding the risks tranquilizers pose, pharmaceutical manufacturers simply shifted focus to other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, SSRIs, and SNRIs.</p><p>Every decade, more problems arise with these pills. While short-term efficacy is clinically proven (especially when coupled with psychotherapy), underlying risks have long been known and little discussed. As Dr. Harshal Kirane, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Health/popular-anti-anxiety-medications-highly-addictive-fda-warning/story?id=73295488" target="_blank">recently said</a> after the FDA announcement, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Benzodiazepines will not be the next big epidemic. They have been a 'silent' epidemic for decades, intensifying consequences from the current opioid epidemic."</p><p>The FDA's decision is based on growing evidence that benzos are prescribed more frequently and for longer durations than they're approved for. This has led to increasing cases of abuse and misuse. </p>
Credit: Tomas Nevesely / Shutterstock<p>As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/antidepressants-dangers" target="_self">told Big Think</a> earlier this year, drug approval regulations are looser than many assume. Drug manufacturers, which often sponsor clinical trials for their own drugs, only have to show efficacy over placebo—how much efficacy doesn't matter. If a company doesn't like the result, they can throw out the data and never report it. Then there's chronic use.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We also don't measure long-term exposure. If you look at Xanax, it doesn't show any efficacy after about four weeks. If you're taking it on a daily basis, you really should get off it. But all sorts of people have been on it for two years, three years, five years, 10 years. We don't have a mechanism for assessing what happens to people on these drugs for that amount of time."</p><p>In fact, the original Xanax trial was for 14 weeks. At the end, the drug was under-performing the placebo. Instead of submitting that data, the company only reported the four-week data. As of 2017, Xanax was the <a href="https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/Top300Drugs.aspx" target="_blank">21st most-prescribed drug</a> in the country, with nearly 26 million prescriptions written, even though it only shows efficacy for about a month. </p><p>Psychiatrist Bechoy Abdelmalak <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Health/popular-anti-anxiety-medications-highly-addictive-fda-warning/story?id=73295488" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explains</a> the road to addiction: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"When you start taking these drugs, the response is very positive so it becomes hard for patients to discontinue them. So patients often take them for many years and, with chronic use, the risk of side effects increases, especially in the elderly."</p><p>Overall, roughly 92 million prescriptions for benzodiazepines were dispensed in America in 2019, with an estimated 50 percent of patients taking them for two months or longer (according to 2018 data). </p><p>A label warning is a step in the right direction, but given the increasing amounts of mental health troubles in 2020, we need more protections. The only winner right now is the <a href="https://time.com/4900248/antidepressants-depression-more-common/" target="_blank">$17 billion antidepressant industry</a> and the <a href="https://www.goodrx.com/blog/depression-and-anxiety-prescriptions-are-climbing-nationwide/" target="_blank">burgeoning anti-anxiety market</a>. That money is made on our suffering. From the looks of it, these drugs are creating more problems than they're solving, and we're all paying the price. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>
Americans lose an estimated 321 million work days every year due to anxiety and depression.
- Anxiety levels are increasing due to the pandemic and political uncertainty right now.
- Anxiety and depression cost the economy $50 billion in health care costs and lost work every year.
- These six books cover anxiety's physiology, environmental factors, and potential treatments.
You’re Wired for Anxiety. And You’re Wired to Handle It | Anne Marie Albano | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="006926deaed2698d42ef27cba83f173a"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mUv37ttgQVE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><h4><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0143109049?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety - Joseph Ledoux</a></h4><p>Neuroscientist Joseph Ledoux has written <em>the</em> go-to book for understanding everything about anxiety. How it arises in consciousness, its physiological manifestation, reshaping psychotherapy, environmental stressors—you name it. Ledoux argues that you must treat the outward symptoms <em>and</em> inner causes if you want to holistically address anxiety. He points out that uncertainty about the future (and how to prepare for it) is a common trigger for anxiety disorders, which puts 2020 into perspective. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Patients with panic disorder…have a hypersensitive suffocation alarm system, which falsely detects a dangerous level of CO2 and lead to hyperventilation, which in turn produces an actual rise in CO2 (due to short, fast inspiration). The resulting dizziness and light-headedness lead the person to misinterpret the physiological changes and worry and dread follow in the panic-stick person."</p><h4><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1101982934?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For You, and How to Get Good At It - Kelly McGonigal</a></h4><p>Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal flips the anxiety script on its head in this inspiring and motivational work on the advantages of stress. Anxiety is part of life—we've known that since Freud, and intuitively, long before (Kierkegaard had a few things to say as well). What if you can reframe that physiological energy and use it as a catalyst for action? McGonigal offers plenty of ways you can do just that. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"One of the effects of the biological stress response is to make you more open to your experience. You feel things more, and your ability to notice expands. You are more sensitive to other people and to your environment."</p><h4><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0307390608?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind - Scott Stossel</a></h4><p>Scott Stossel, a longtime editor of The Atlantic, has suffered from crippling anxiety for years. This half-memoir, half-exposé offers a compassionate gaze into the personal and societal complications of anxiety. Stossel investigates the many attempts at therapy, from the common to the outlandish. Most importantly, he offers real-world advice for controlling and managing symptoms. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> "Conscientious people who were highly neurotic tended to be more reflective, more goal oriented, more organized, and better at planning than average; they tended to be effective, 'high-functioning' workers—and to be better at taking care of their physical health than other workers."</p>
Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock<h4><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0143125745?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">The Trauma of Everyday Life - Mark Epstein</a></h4><p>In this beautiful handbook for life, psychiatrist Mark Epstein puts Buddhism into action. He claims humans are all traumatized in some capacity, which creates lasting and often subconscious anxiety. Epstein uses the vast toolkit of Buddhist philosophy to reengineer trauma as a catalyst for transformation. The first step is not only striving for what is good and pleasant. You have to face trauma head-on. If you do, Epstein assures us, the world is yours. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The key, taught the Buddha, lies in not taking trauma personally. When it is seen as a natural reflection of the chaotic universe of which we are a part, it loses its edge and can become a deeper object of mindfulness."</p><h4><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1328915433?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain - Lisa Feldman Barrett</a></h4><p>We don't react to situations, writes psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett. Rather, we constantly create our reality. It only feels like reacting because of how deeply our patterns are imprinted. Fortunately, patterns are malleable. In this spellbinding book about the nature of emotions and human consciousness, Barrett leads the reader through the historical construction of emotions, assuring you that you don't need to be the victim of your mind. You are the author of your experiences. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"[Emotions] are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment." </p><h4><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250096960?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World - M.R. O'Connor</a></h4><p>There's something beautiful about getting lost. Not only does it make you notice your surroundings, it activates parts of your brain that remain silent when you default to using Waze for navigation. Science writer Maura O'Connor's exquisite book reminds us of what we've lost in an automated world and the anxiety this "ease" adds to our lives. Of course, she also offers solutions that keep you mentally engaged and emotionally healthy. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Mapping is an act of committing to memory the experience of bodily movement and reenacting it. It's a kind of performance, like telling a story."</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>