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Sleep deprivation lowers emotional control

Sleep deprivation lowers emotional control
23rd October 2007

Sleep deprivation can cause people to overreact to negative experiences, according to new research.

The study from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Berkeley found that exhaustion leads to the shutdown of the prefrontal lobe, the area of the mind which controls our emotions.

"It is almost as though, without sleep, the brain reverts back to a more primitive pattern of activity, becoming unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses," senior researcher Dr Matthew Walker commented.

Sleep deprivation has long been known to affect the immune system and metabolism, as well as brain processes, such as learning and memory. However, this is the first time sleep's impact on our emotional wellbeing has been studied.

Dr Walker said he hoped the findings would help scientists to better understand and treat psychiatric disorders, the vast majority of which have sleep disruption as a symptom.

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