How Does Sleep Deprivation Effect Your Brain?
Last Updated On November 4th, 2018
Sleeping is an essential part of our daily routine; it helps us in more ways than one can imagine. Some people sleep too much, whereas others are sleeping too little. Being sleep deprived can seriously affect your life and health. Aside from being less able to focus, emotional instability, and decreased work performance, sleep deprivation can have several long-term effects. Though you may initially feel fine going without enough rest – defined as at least six hours of sleep per night – your brain will eventually suffer for it.
The Side Effects Of Sleep Deprivation
Many people think that slumber is akin to a bank as if you can store deposits of rest to make up for when you don’t get enough sleep. This is the wrong way to think about how the body uses rest because the brain needs adequate sleep every night. As sleep deprivation symptoms worsen, inflammatory mediators in the brain increase. If one continues to get too little slumber for years at a time, it can lead to the development of physical, mental, and emotional illnesses. Even in the short term, lack of sleep has significant effects. Here are just some of the consequences of depriving oneself:
1. Brain Fog and Impaired Judgment
If you’ve ever felt like it’s more challenging to think, focus on a task, or pay attention to something and you haven’t been getting enough sleep, that’s likely the source of the problem. Sleep deprivation slows down your brain’s thought processes and lowers its level of alertness and ability to concentrate.
Sleep deprivation can also impair judgment. If your brain is too tired to think straight, you won’t be able to assess things as well as you ought to, and your insight won’t be as keen. Impaired judgment is a large part of why people are advised not to drive when they’re sleepy. A tired brain doesn’t react as quickly or adequately assess surroundings, resulting in an unsafe situation for the driver and everyone around.
As well, it’s unwise to make important decisions when you’re sleep deprived, yet it’s common for people to do so. Most of us have been given the advice to “sleep on it” before making big decisions, and that’s actually practical advice. While at rest, our unconscious brains have the ability to process vast amounts of information, making it easier to come up with creative, practical, and innovative solutions when we’re awake. However, a sleep-deprived brain can miss possible options and better alternatives and lead to poor choices.
2. Learning and Memory Difficulties
A tired brain that can’t focus also has difficulty picking up and retaining new information. It’s important for children to sleep well on school nights for a good reason: a rested brain is more active and able to learn new material efficiently. It can also more easily recall information that was previously absorbed. Adults should get adequate sleep for the same reasons. Trying to attempt a new project, learn new processes at your job, or train at different tasks will be an uphill battle if you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
Don’t count on being able to quickly recall new information without getting enough rest the night beforehand. Sleep is essential to make information stick with our brains and become committed to memory. Three things must happen for the brain to create a memory: learning or experiencing new information, that information becoming consolidated in the brain, and the memory being recalled in the future. The consolidation happens when we are asleep, and without it, we tend to remember less while we’re awake.
3. Physical Effects On The Body
Go without several nights of rest, and you’ll likely notice several adverse effects: you may be more clumsy, accident-prone, or even have some aches that you didn’t have before. This is because each of the crucial different stages of sleep indeed is a form of restoration for the body, and when you don’t get enough of it you’re hurting yourself.
Sometimes received with disbelief, it’s scientifically proven that those suffering from types of sleep disorders which cause lack of sleep also suffer from rapid weight gain. Sleep deprived people and those who are chronic short sleepers – people who get less than 5 hours each night for years on end – more easily retain weight and have more difficulty staying at a healthy weight. This is mainly due to stress levels being heightened when the brain is sleep deprived. In such a state, it produces more cortisol, a stress hormone, and that in turn increases one’s appetite. Sleep deprivation also leads to the body increasing its production of ghrelin, a biochemical that encourages eating. What’s worse, it becomes even harder to lose weight because a tired brain can’t give the body the energy it needs to work out and stay in shape. This cycle can be tough to break, but the only way to get on the right track is by getting enough rest each night.
Another one of the long-term physical side effects of sleep deprivation is that it makes the body more susceptible to becoming sick. Good shut-eye allows the brain to aid the body in healing and repair, and that also goes for the immune system. Less sleep equals a less healthy immune system and more illnesses. It’s not just a higher frequency of colds and sniffles that one may experience, but more severe problems such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
4. Negative Mood
Along with an increased risk of physical illness, somewhat less serious effects of lack of sleep are the way it changes one’s mood and puts you in the position to develop mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. As children, we were often told to go to bed so we wouldn’t get cranky. The same is true as we age: start depriving your body and brain of rest, and you will be more irritable and prone to anger. Missing just one night of adequate sleep can cause you to feel more stressed out, mentally and emotionally exhausted, and anxious.
With so many benefits of getting a good night’s rest, it’s a wonder that so many people choose to deprive themselves of the shut-eye they need. Just the act of getting a good nights sleep can increase your quality of life and help take your performance to new levels. Don’t think of sleep as a luxury or something that will hinder your goals — your cognitive, mental, and physical health depend on sleep to stay well.