“Taking sleep disorders in psychosis seriously may have important benefits,” Sarah Reeve, D.Phil., of the University of Oxford and colleagues wrote. “Recent manipulation studies have demonstrated that simulating insomnia increases psychotic experiences, and, conversely, treating insomnia reduces psychotic experiences. … [B]y improving sleep it may be possible to improve psychosis, representing an exciting new treatment target.”
For the study, Reeve and colleagues recruited patients aged 18 to 30 who had received a diagnosis of nonaffective psychotic disorder and outpatient clinical services. The researchers used the Diagnostic Interview for Sleep Patterns and Disorders (DISP) and information obtained from sleep diaries and wrist-based activity monitoring devices to assess the presence of sleep disorders in these patients. If the patient met criteria for diagnosis or positive screen for a sleep disorder, they were then asked whether they had ever discussed the issue with a medical professional and whether they received treatment for the disorder.
Of the 60 patients included in the study, 48 (80%) received a positive screen or diagnosis for at least one sleep disorder. The most common sleep diagnoses were insomnia (n=30, 50%) and nightmare disorder (n=29, 48.3%), but as the authors noted, “there was a broad range of sleep issues presenting in this group and comorbidity was high, with an average of 3.3 sleep disorders per patient.”
Patients with at least one sleep disorder reported more severe paranoia, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety compared with those who did not report a sleep disorder (as assessed by Specific Psychotic Experiences Questionnaire and Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale). The researchers found that over half of the sleep disorders had been discussed with a clinician but almost three-quarters had received no treatment.
“Diagnostic systems such as DSM-5 recommend that sleep problems should be assessed and treated irrespective of other psychiatric comorbidities. This does not appear to be happening in psychosis services,” Reeve and colleagues wrote. “[I]ndependent of any relationship with psychotic experiences, our view is that the assessment and treatment of sleep disorders among those with psychosis merits greater clinical attention.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Brains of People With Insomnia Stay More Active During Sleep.”