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Dr Sarah Reeve was delighted to be awarded a DPhil for her research into the relationship between sleep and psychosis.

Dr Reeve's research focused on sleep and psychosis - in particular delusions and hallucinations. Here she gives some more detail:

What was your approach to your area of research?

SR:  We know that sleep problems are very common in people with psychosis, but typically they are thought of as a consequence of psychosis. In my thesis I’ve investigated the reverse direction of causation, seeing how much sleep problems themselves contribute to psychosis.

How did you test this theory?

SR: A big part of this was testing the effects of an insomnia-like sleep loss in an experimental study with healthy volunteers. After the sleep loss, in comparison to after sleeping normally, participants reported significantly more paranoia, hallucinations, and cognitive disorganisation. This was the first study to demonstrate that insomnia might therefore contribute to psychotic symptoms directly. Furthermore, we were able to illustrate that this relationship between sleep and psychotic experiences appears to be underpinned by changes in mood: when people have insomnia, they tend to feel more depressed or anxious, and then this can lead to small but significant increases in psychotic experiences. This study was complemented by the OASIS trial which demonstrated that treating insomnia reduces psychotic experiences.

What were your main conclusions?

SR: Overall, this research indicates that treating insomnia or other sleep problems may be a novel target in treatment or prevention of psychosis. In the rest of my thesis I then investigated how sleep problems manifest and influence psychotic symptoms in at-risk of psychosis and clinical patient groups, in order to provide more detail on possible intervention targets.

 And what are your plans now?

SR: Currently I am working as postdoctoral researcher at the department, continuing my research into the relationship between sleep and psychosis.

Sarah reeve on BBC's Trust Me I'm a doctor


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