People who suffer with insomnia are five times more likely to have paranoid thinking. Dr. Daniel Freeman, a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, is a well known researcher in the area of paranoid thinking. His study, the first to examine the association between sleep loss and persecutory thoughts, also revealed that over half the population of individuals attending psychiatric services for paranoia, were also clinical insomniacs.
Reported on the ScienceDaily website, Dr. Freeman states, “a few nights of poor sleep can make us stressed, muddled in our thinking and disconnected from the world . . these are ideal conditions for paranoid fears to take hold.”
Previous research conducted by Dr. Freeman and professor Philippa Garety, pointed to suspicion resulting within the context of emotional distress. Anxiety, they argue, is a particularly important factor as this provides the element of threat in the formation of delusions. The authors suggest that the intensity of a delusion becomes greater due to a variety of ‘reasoning biases’ which shift a state of suspicion to certainty. As a result, the person is likely to behave in ways to ensure their safety, such as hiding away from social contact.
Although the current research provides an association between insomnia and paranoia, it isn’t clear which causes the other. The process is quite possibly dynamic in nature, with insomnia making people anxious and fearful, which in turn makes it harder for people to go to sleep.
“The good news is that there are several tried-and-tested ways to overcome insomnia,” Freeman says. “In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven benefits. The intriguing implication of the research is that use of the sleep techniques may also make us feel safer and less mistrustful during the day. A good night’s sleep may simply make us view the world in a much more positive light.”
Insomnia is so common that, on current estimates, one in every three people will experience problems getting to sleep or staying asleep, on any given night.
Dr. Freeman is author of the book, Paranoia: The 21st-century Fear.
Welcome Trust (2009, January 9). Macbeth’s Curse: Link Between Sleeplessness and Paranoia Identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 9, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090108150857.htm
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.