Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Did Sleep Deprivation Lead to Attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?

Politicians and pundits continue to argue whether vitriolic partisan politics inspired the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday. Another factor that may have pushed alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner to go on a killing spree that left six dead and 14 injured remains left out of the discussion.

Bizarre online ramblings allegedly posted by Loughner reveal he may have had insomnia prior to the Arizona attack. He writes:

“All humans are in need of sleep.
Jared Loughner is a human.
Hence, Jared Loughner is in need of sleep.”

Other passages in the YouTube rant mention sleepwalking and so-called conscious dreaming about the government. It’s unclear whether his message is intended to be literal, symbolic or just the incoherent ramblings of someone with serious mental health problems. Former classmates indicate it may be the latter.

And it all could have started with insomnia. Young adults with long-term sleep deprivation have an increased risk for mental illness, a study published last year in the journal SLEEP reported. A history of depression, anxiety or general emotional distress further raises the risk.

So was the shooting a product of partisan speech with violent undertones? Was it long-term insomnia? Or was the alleged gunman simply seriously disturbed? Chances are we will find out more in the coming months.

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