Thursday, December 29, 2011

Up All Night: Schizophrenia and Sleep Disturbance

"He has nights and days reversed."  That is a statement that I make A LOT about my loved one with schizophrenia.  I tell psychiatrists who want to do morning appointments as well as social workers, case managers, therapists and much of the known universe.

It's not easy scheduling appointments for a person who has trouble waking up by 4 p.m. But that is very, very common for people with schizophrenia, a new study out of Oxford indicates.

The Oxford research team studied 20 patients with schizophrenia. All 20 were stable on medication. And all 20 had severe disruption in their sleep.

The study, reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found all of the individuals with schizophrenia took longer to fall asleep, stayed in bed longer, slept longer and had variable sleep patterns. Half of them had irregular body clocks, meaning they often had nights and days reversed. When awake, they have, in effect, constant jet lag.

The Oxford team says the issue is not that people with schizophrenia tend to have unstructured days, as the control group was unemployed people who also had no structure.

The research said the severe impact of the sleep disturbances needs to be considered in treatment, because it has a strong impact on mood, social function, mental abilities and quality of life. The only problem is too few psychiatrists have office hours at 1 a.m. when the patient is awake and ready.

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