Specific brain regions, including those involved in awareness of self and tendency to ruminate, show altered activity in patients with insomnia when compared to good sleepers, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine published this week in the journal SLEEP.
In what is the largest study of its kind on insomnia, a research group led by Daniel Buysse M.D., professor of psychiatry and clinical and translational science, and the UPMC Professor of Sleep Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, identified differences in brain activity between states of sleep and wakefulness in 44 patients diagnosed with insomnia and 40 good sleepers.
“While patients with insomnia often have their symptoms trivialized by friends, families and even physicians, the findings in this study add strong evidence to the emerging view that insomnia is a condition with neurobiological as well as psychological causes,” said Dr. Buysse, who is the senior author on the study. The study also shows that brain activity during sleep is more nuanced than previously thought, with different brain regions experiencing varying ‘depths’ of sleep.
The findings may help improve current treatments for insomnia such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, and increase understanding of why treatments such as mindfulness meditation are effective in some patients.