According to a new study, people suffering from insomnia have trouble concentrating during the day also because the “wandering mind” areas of their brains may not be turned off.
Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or both, despite adequate opportunity and time to sleep, leading to impaired daytime functioning. Insomnia may be due to poor quality or quantity of sleep.
Researchers with the help of brain imaging technology found that people with insomnia who were performing a working memory task did not rely less on the "default mode" regions of their brain that are usually active only when the mind is wandering. These findings may help in explaining the reason behind poor performance of insomniacs during the day.
The authors of the study believe their research could lead to improved treatments for the sleep disorder. The study is published in the September issue of the journal Sleep.
"We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off 'mind-wandering' brain regions irrelevant to the task," study lead author Sean Drummond said in a journal news release. "Based on these results, it is not surprising that someone with insomnia would feel like they are working harder to do the same job as a healthy sleeper." Drummond is an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, as well as the secretary/treasurer of the Sleep Research Society.
His study compared 25 people with primary insomnia -- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep that's not related to another health condition -- to 25 people who did not have any trouble sleeping. The participants, whose average age was 32, underwent a functional MRI scan as they performed a task of their working memory.
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