March 5, 2012
By Dr. Andrew Weil
“Dreams are awesome. It’s interesting to note that they might even be healthy. Do you dream in black and white or full color? Do you fly in your dreams? Ever have one of those dreams where nothing goes right? Not sure how that can be healthy, but apparently, it’s good for you.” –KTRN
Does insomnia cause depression? Does depression cause insomnia? Chronic insomnia is strongly associated with mood disorders, but which way does the causality run?
I think it’s likely that cause-and-effect can go in either direction, but surprisingly, there is little experimental research on the connection between sleep and emotions. What there is mostly tracks the effects of enforced sleep deprivation. A typical experiment restricts the amount of sleep subjects are allowed to get over days or weeks, then measures the resulting cognitive and emotional effects. Such research shows that sleep restriction tends to make people less optimistic and less sociable. One study at the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects limited to four to five hours of sleep per night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry and sad. Their moods improved dramatically when they resumed normal sleep.
It’s difficult to run experiments in the other direction — that is, to make people stressed, angry and sad for days or weeks and note the effect on their sleeping ability — but virtually every human being can vouch that emotional upset can severely impact sleep.
While sleep is clearly vital to emotional well-being, what is it, exactly, about sleep that is so necessary? As it turns out, mood disorders are strongly linked to abnormal patterns of dreaming. Rosalind Cartwright, Ph.D., a leading sleep and dream researcher at Chicago’s Rush Medical Center and author of The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives, has shown that individuals who dream and remember their dreams heal more quickly from depressive moods associated with divorce. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep and dream expert on the clinical faculty of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, believes that “dream loss” rather than sleep loss per se, is “the most critical overlooked socio-cultural force” in the development of depression.
This is important information because many medications used to help people sleep also suppress dreaming. These drugs have become some of the most widely used in our society. Many antidepressant drugs suppress dreaming as well.
I think mainstream research tends to discount the value of dreaming because the experience is utterly subjective. Dreaming is a phenomenon of purely individual consciousness, and consequently impossible to thoroughly deconstruct by a community of researchers. But dreaming matters.
November 17, 2009
By S. L. Baker
(NaturalNews) There’s nothing new about the fact prescription drugs come loaded with possible side effects ranging from the mild to the life-threatening. However, exactly what those side effects are isn’t always clear until widely taken medications have been used for years on end. Examples previously reported in NaturalNews include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac raising the risk of sudden death in otherwise healthy women (http://www.naturalnews.com/025811.html) and prescription sleeping pills upping the rate of suicides in the elderly (http://www.naturalnews.com/027375_s).
Now comes worrisome research which associates commonly prescribed drugs with behavioral and psychiatric disorders. The new study was presented by scientists from Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) in Washington, D. C., at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in Chicago in October.
Other researchers, including GUMC neuroscientists, have shown in previous studies that many of these medications actually cause brain cells to die when the drugs are given to immature animal models. Because the regions of the brain where this drug-induced death of neurons takes place are crucial to the regulation of mood, thinking ability and movement, GUMC scientists decided to investigate whether behavior was affected by the drugs.
Working with infant rats in the lab, GUMC scientists tested medications that are frequently prescribed to treat epilepsy, pain and mood disorders in humans — including children. By using behavioral tests on the animals when the rats reached adulthood, the researchers documented that the drugs did indeed cause behavioral abnormalities later in life.
What’s more, the abnormalities the scientists found didn’t only occur in the drugs that were previously known to cause the death of brain cells. Other frequently prescribed drugs not known to damage neurons also caused the behavioral problems. “That is of particular concern because some of the drugs may predispose to psychiatric disorders later in life,” lead author Patrick Forcelli, a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience at GUMC, said in a statement to the media.
So what drugs, specifically, were tested? Neither the GUMC press office nor the Society for Neuroscience web site has posted that information publicly. However, drugs that are commonly prescribed for epilepsy include carbamazepine, valproate, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, phenytoin, clonazepam, phenobarbital, and primidone. Narcotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most frequently prescribed for pain and SSRIs are often used for mood disorders.
The new research raises several important issues. Not only does it demonstrate that commonly used drugs may contribute to or cause psychiatric problems down the road, but the study also shows how much is yet to be learned about how specific drugs impact the human body. And while medications can help protect the lives and improve the quality of life in people with epilepsy by controlling seizures, efforts need to be stepped up to find the safest possible treatments for these patients.
In the press statement, Dr. Forcelli said his research team did identify some specific drugs that did not seem to cause long-term behavior problems. He stated that additional research is necessary to guide physicians to better select drugs to treat epilepsy, mood disorders or pain in infants and pregnant women.
Editor’s note: NaturalNews is opposed to the use of animals in medical experiments that expose them to harm. We present these findings in protest of the way in which they were acquired.