It seems ridiculous to suggest that sleep deprivation is useful in any sort of way, but researchers seem to have found evidence that suggests it can be. Following in the same vein of the discovery of the drug geared toward preventing PTSD, recent studies have shown that sleep deprivation immediately after a traumatic incident can help prevent the onset of PTSD in the future.

It sounds surprising, but the idea actually makes sense. One of the many things that happens while you sleep is that long-term memories are formed in the brain. This occurs in the hippocampus, which resides in an area of the brain that controls emotions, called the amygdala. After a traumatic incident, a lot of sleep can lead to the memories of that incident becoming entrenched in the person’s mind, leading to fear reactions to similar situations in the future, sometimes in the exaggerated way that indicates the presence of PTSD. The researchers’ thinking was that if the brain is deprived of its best opportunity to file away these memories in a clear way, the fear responses will be diminished. Early studies have confirmed this line of thinking.

As with all scientific breakthroughs, there needs to be a quite a bit more research conducted on the matter before we can say with a reasonable certainty that sleep deprivation can be used to combat PTSD. We also need to look at the extent to which fear reactions are stunted; as mentioned in a previous post, it can be dangerous to suppress them too much. If further research goes well, though, this could be a simple, non-medical, and very cheap way to address a very serious problem.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders; Let’s not sleep on it. (2010, December). NewsRx Health & Science,655. Retrieved December 22, 2010, from Alumni – Research Library. (Document ID: 2214338741).

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