Conflicting reports about the effects of sleep deprivation have been found in the literature. On the one hand, there is evidence that sleep deprivation produces anxiety, while on the other a few studies suggest that sleep deprivation could improve anxiety symptoms in depressed patients.
Studies that report anxiogenic (i.e., increase anxiety) effects of sleep deprivation do not offer a clear explanation for this interaction. The most frequent one suggested in the literature implicates paradoxical sleep (REM sleep – the dream state), which when deprived of it (e.g., woken up as soon as REM sleep starts) mice show an increase in anxiety-like behaviors.
The present study further supports the link between anxiety and paradoxical-sleep deprivation. The authors also indicate that depriving mice of deep sleep (i.e., the sleep stage right before REM sleep) is also conducive of anxiety.
More importantly, the results indicate that increased anxiety appear after 72 hours of sleep deprivation, not 24 hours, indicating that the duration of sleep deprivation is critical for anxiety.
The present findings are significant because they disprove the notion that sleep deprivation could improve anxiety symptoms in depressed patients.
Silva RH, Kameda SR, Carvalho RC, Takatsu-Coleman AL, Niigaki ST, Abílio VC, Tufik S, Frussa-Filho R. Anxiogenic effect of sleep deprivation in the elevated plus-maze test in mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2004 Nov;176(2):115-22. doi: 10.1007/s00213-004-1873-z. Epub 2004 May 25. PMID: 15160262.