Insomniacs' brains lose focus, scans suggest

 
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Brain scans of people who say they have insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night's sleep.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said the poor sleepers struggled to focus part of their brain in memory tests.

Other experts said that the brain's wiring may actually be affecting perceptions of sleep quality.

The findings were published in the journal Sleep.

People with insomnia struggle to sleep at night, but it also has consequences during the day such as delayed reaction times and memory.

The study compared 25 people who said they had insomnia with 25 who described themselves as good sleepers. MRI brain scans were carried out while they performed increasingly challenging memory tests.

One of the researchers, Prof Sean Drummond, said: "We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off 'mind-wandering' brain regions irrelevant to the task.

"This data helps us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day."

A sleep researcher in the UK, Dr Neil Stanley, said that the quality of the sleep each group was having was very similar, even though one set was reporting insomnia.

He said: "What's the chicken and what's the egg? Is the brain different and causing them to report worse sleep?

"Maybe they're perceiving what happened in the night differently; maybe what is affecting their working memory and ability to focus on the task at hand is also causing insomnia."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 88.

    Is insomnia is affecting memory and ability to focus while awake, or are these a problem that contribute to insomnia? I wake approximately every two hours or less, so not going into a deep enough sleep and rarely remember dreams any more. When I wake I quickly go into rational mode yet know I'm drifting off when surreal thoughts and visions begin. Conflict between left brain and right brain?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 87.

    In this modern complex world we are surrounded by gadgets that make our work easy and facile. However, if one of it conks out or a problem pops up, we get frustrated. We are in fact entangled by problems galore. We go farther and farther away from Nature and its rhythm ruining our life with instant temptations like fast food and pills for instant relief till our system goes kaput - wired or not.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 86.

    ..@26. Robbidou.responds to 22.HonestOpinion (Smart phones, laptops... literally burn holes through your brain.') " ...I think you need to consider the meaning of the word 'literally' because I don't think technology does 'literally' burn holes through your brain, otherwise people would be able to see through your head!"
    ...
    According to the OED it can! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23729570

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 85.

    I find it difficult to understand our laws on certain sleep products. In the USA you can buy Melatonin in health food stores and it really helps sleep problems with no safety issues. Yet here they encourage sleeping pills with after effects that can be bad. Melatonin is natural and available on line.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 84.

    83.Trina

    Our most creative people have had insomnia.
    ===
    I think you mean some of our most creative people have had insomnia. No doubt some have not. Unless we verify and analyse the data it's just more folk myth.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 83.

    Our most creative people have had insomnia. Perhaps it is less sociable trying to fit into a 9-5 world, but in 'curing it' what perhaps are we doing to their creative brains that can't switch off?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 82.

    @77 peggy-sue

    As an academic who's spent twenty years researching my field, I'd say that experts don't make statements they can't back up. I'd guess the Dr means that using tried and tested objective measures, there was no statistically significant difference in sleep patterns between the two groups.

    In science, you can't just have an opinion, you have to back it up.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 81.

    Lots of clever comments again stating that 'we already know this. It's obvious'.

    Well then clever people - tell me why it happens and how to change it.

    That's what this research will help with.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 80.

    Interesting but does it actually help? I suffer from a form of rythmic insomnia - variable number of nights with little or no sleep followed by a total shutdown for as long as needed.
    Rinse,spin,repeat.
    In my case it's linked to the same neurological damage that causes occasional severe fits (many head injuries in my misspent yoof). OTOH my memory and reaction times are unaffected.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 79.

    73. Chris
    "Why is there a HYS on this article? What do BBC expect anyone to say about some research on insomnia (that concludes almost nothing)?"

    Well, you managed to chip in OK....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 78.

    Read the research/book by Colin Espie if you struggle with sleep. No I'm not him, but it's good stuff and helped me.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 77.

    I'm a little concerned about the interpretations of this study. While a Dr. says there was no difference in the quality of sleep either group experienced, could this not be because he wasn't looking in the right places for differences, rather than taking the all too common stance of "blaming the victim" for misinterpreting their experience?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 76.

    72. HonestOpinion
    2 MINUTES AGO
    Smart phones, laptops (with bright screens and constant info) literally burn holes through your brain.

    Brain not head Robbidou.....

    Your skull is not your brain...back to bio class for you

    But how would you burn a hole in your brain without going through the skull, and also where can I download this brain laser app? It would be handy in the pub.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 75.

    I have sleeping issues. I haven't worked out if it's insomnia, stress or bad sleeping habits, but worrying about sleep occupies my mind almost constantly. I walk around in a daze most of the time working at 60%. An holistic approach to sleeping problems are essential as there are many contributory factors. Here's a useful link to get tips!

    http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/sleep/Pages/sleep-home.aspx

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 74.

    38Think Tank

    If I release a ball it moves towards the Earth. It's "bleedin' obvious there's a force involved"
    ===
    At the time most would say it's obvious the heavier falls fastest. That did stop Galileo lobbing his balls (of differing weights) over the balcony of the Tower of Pisa to test his theory they hit the ground at the same time. You can say a force is involved, but Albert didn't need it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 73.

    Why is there a HYS on this article? What do BBC expect anyone to say about some research on insomnia (that concludes almost nothing)?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 72.

    Smart phones, laptops (with bright screens and constant info) literally burn holes through your brain.
    -
    I think you need to consider the meaning of the word "literally" because I don't think technology does "literally" burn holes through your brain, otherwise people would be able to see through your head!

    -

    Brain not head Robbidou.....

    Your skull is not your brain...back to bio class for you

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    I am a veteran insomniac having learned my skills during WW2 as a child keeping up with the air-raid siren. Useful, since professionally I still (in my dotage) practice astronomy.

    Sleep

    Sleep is the silent place
    where from consciousness we slip,

    and in the slipping dream perhaps;
    between dreams we sleep and wake.

    Sleep is an unknown territory.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 70.

    Luckily, there is a cure for insomnia. Reading the comments on this story. Yawn.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 69.

    As an insomniac I could have told the University of California's researchers that insomnia affects reaction times and memory, without the need for a 'study' and for free...

 

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