In some cases, complete sleep deprivation for one night can produce positive anti-depressant effects superior to those of antidepressants.
Although the body is physically extremely tired after a night awake, the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine is stimulated in the brain. Dopamine is a substance that gives the feeling of satisfaction and happiness, and this over-release of can permanently rewire brain circuits.
After one night of acute sleep deprivation, in addition to the release of dopamine, the brain’s plasticity—its ability to rewire itself—is enhanced, reports a scientific study presented in the journal Neutron. It turns out that as a result of this change in brain activity, a significant improvement in mood is observed, which lasts for several days.
However, before the improvement in mood, there was a trend toward hyperactivity, aggression, and increased sexuality after sleep deprivation. These behaviors only last for hours until after they are dissipated, there is this spike in dopamine release in the brain associated with improved mood.
Almost all areas of the brain associated with the release of dopamine have an impact on the improved mental state. Activity was observed in the prefrontal cortex, hypothalamus, dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens. Of greatest importance is the prefrontal cortex, with the study claiming that it is the main area where dopamine is released and that without it, the antidepressant effects of sleep deprivation would not be seen.
The main author of the study, Prof. Evgenia Kozorovitsky from Northwestern University in Illinois, USA, says that this reaction can be explained as an evolutionary instinct – in wild environments there are often situations where an animal must hide from a predator for a long time without sleep This oversegregation can then greatly aid survival.
Although sleep deprivation has these temporary antidepressant effects, regular sleep deprivation is not recommended. It leads to significant consequences in the body and can predispose to many diseases. Not sleeping a night has no serious consequences, but a regular lack of sleep can have a negative effect and trigger depression. New knowledge about dopamine may help develop new types of treatments for the condition.
StudyFinds (2023, November 2) One sleepless night could reveal a surprising cure for depression. Retrieved 2023, November 3 from https://studyfinds.org/sleepless-night-cure-depression/
Kozorovitskiy, Y. (2023, November 2) Dopamine pathways mediating affective state transitions after sleep loss. Retrieved 2023, November 3 from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2023.10.002