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It is clinically and theoretically plausible that insomnia contributes to the development and maintenance of paranoid fears. The primary aim of the study was to establish in a large sample whether insomnia and paranoia are associated more strongly than by chance. Cross-sectional data on paranoia, insomnia, anxiety, worry, depression, irritability, and cannabis use were obtained from the second British National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity, a general population survey of adults aged 16-74 years living in Great Britain (N = 8580). It was found that insomnia was associated with an approximately two to threefold increase in paranoid thinking. Paranoia and insomnia were both strongly associated with the presence of anxiety, worry, depression, irritability and cannabis use. In a path analysis the association of paranoia and insomnia was partially explained by the affective symptoms, and, to a much lesser degree, cannabis use. The results are consistent with recent developments in the cognitive understanding of persecutory delusions, in which insomnia, negative affect, and substance use are identified as key factors. Longitudinal studies of insomnia and paranoia, and tests of the effects of sleep interventions on levels of paranoia, are now required to examine causality.

Original publication




Journal article


J Psychiatr Res

Publication Date





1021 - 1026


Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Community Health Planning, Cross-Sectional Studies, Delusions, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Odds Ratio, Paranoid Disorders, Severity of Illness Index, Sex Factors, Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders, Surveys and Questionnaires, United Kingdom, Young Adult