What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

We all know that sleep is important--and the vast majority of us love the feeling of being well-rested and ready to take on the day. A bad night of sleep can definitely impact your day. You may start feeling sluggish, tired, slow to react and respond. All of these side effects are perfectly normal. And, while one night of bad sleep isn’t too much to worry about, regularly getting poor sleep can have lifelong consequences for you and those around you. 

When you sleep, your brain gets uninterrupted time to do its daily chores: healing, storing information, making connections, creating memories, etc. All of these processes happen while you’re awake too, but sleeping allows the brain its own chance to rest because you are not actively using your brain to work, play, or even move your body. 

What Happens When You’re Sleep Deprived? 

Lack of Sleep Affects Your Mood

It doesn’t take a lot to make you super grumpy when you’re well-rested, so starting the day off exhausted means you’re more likely to be irritable and less likely to handle stress well. Not only that, but sleep deprivation can also impact your mood by compromising your mental health as well.

You could start to see the development of serious mental and emotional problems if you remain sleep deprived over time:

  • Rash decision-making 

Sleep helps you make better decisions and react to situations more thoughtfully.

    • Mood swings 

    Sleep keeps you focused and able to parse out your feelings.

      • Hallucinations 

      Hallucinations can make you feel unbalanced, and sleep means you can focus on what’s really happening.

        • Impulsive behavior 

        Rash decisions and behaviors are risks of poor sleep. Get the rest you need so you can make good decisions throughout the day.

          • Anxiety 

          Sleep allows you to remain logical and stave off worry that might creep in if you’re exhausted.

            • Depression

            Depression is the result of a chemical imbalance, so keep yourself as rested as possible so your brain can do its job more effectively. 

            Lack of Sleep Impacts Your Memory

            Sleep deprivation has serious consequences for your brain in the short term and the long term. A recent study by UCLA scientists concluded that sleep deprivation prevents some brain cells from communicating with one another. 

            Your brain cells allow you to make decisions throughout the day, process and store information/memories, and maintain focus during school or work. Ineffective sleep, even one night of it, can affect our mental performance and lead to noticeable daily side effects, like brain fog. 

            Lack of Sleep Slows Your Reaction Time

            If you are experiencing long term sleep deprivation, it could be due to a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep interrupting disorders, like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

            Regardless of what’s causing your issues, sleep deprivation prevents neurons in your brain from forming new connections and/or processing new information you learned during your waking hours. As a result, your brain cannot do its job and leaves you at increased risk of poor decision making, lowered cognitive ability, and a tendency towards accidents.

            In fact, it’s been proven that driving while sleep deprived is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.  

            Lack of Sleep Weakens Your Brain’s Resources

            Sleep is what allows your brain the time to heal and prepare for everything you need it to do during the day. This is especially true when it comes to your brain’s ability to manage your body’s healing processes. When you’re tired, even just from one night of bad sleep, your brain’s immune system regulation weakens, making you more susceptible to infections and viruses. 

            Plus, sleep deprivation can also make your healing processes longer. Sleep helps your brain and body fight off sickness and get you back to feeling like yourself. If you aren’t sleeping like you should, you cannot fight sickness as effectively and you’ll end up in bed for longer than you might like. 

            Lack of Sleep Makes You Stress Out

            Your brain regulates every single hormone that regulates your body, and stress can have a ripple effect throughout your body--starting in your brain. When you stress out, your brain signals itself to release the stress hormone, cortisol. An overabundance of cortisol can lead to very real side effects that can affect everything from your mood to your appearance.

            If you start to produce cortisol from the stress of sleep deprivation, you can start to see physical effects, like wrinkles and sagging in your skin way earlier than you should! Cortisol breaks down the natural collagen in your skin and ages you...fast. At least, much faster than you may want. 

            Lack of Sleep Hurts Your Mental Health

            While all of the above may seem like tolerable side effects, the truth is much, much more serious. Long term sleep deprivation, or the tendency to get less than your recommended hours of sleep per night, can have significant impacts on your physical and mental health down the road. 

            It's important to start sleeping better now so you can avoid the frightening consequences of long term sleep deprivation and/or an untreated sleep disorder. If you ignore the importance of good sleep now, it can result in health concerns like heart disease, Type II Diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and even some types of cancer. 

            Possible Causes of Sleep Deprivation

            While certain celebrities have gone viral for their dedication to getting minimal sleep, it's absolutely not something you should be striving for. Functioning on little to no sleep is unhealthy if you’re aware of it, but what happens when you think you’re sleeping soundly but really aren’t? 

            This is the case for millions of Americans who suffer from Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is especially common as it is a condition where your airways are cut off during sleep, prompting your body to “wake up” to remedy the blockage, even though you may not remember waking up at all. 

            If you suspect you or a loved one may be suffering from OSA, it's imperative that you seek testing and treatment if you are diagnosed. OSA is fairly simple to test for and is often diagnosed through home sleep testing. 

            What To Do About Sleep Deprivation? 

            Regardless of why you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, it’s important to take quick actions to resume regular sleep patterns. You can take care to develop a really good sleep hygiene, try some home remedies to alleviate restless nights, or explore ways to talk to your doctor about potential sleep disorders. 

            You can also do more research if you do feel you are at risk of OSA. You can take a brief online questionnaire to see if you are a good candidate for home sleep testing. 

            Because your brain is the center of all of your voluntary and involuntary functions, it needs sleep in order to effectively do its job. All of your cognitive skills are dependent on having a rested, healed brain. Good sleep is the foundation of good health, so start investigating sooner rather than later and you’ll start seeing the incredible effects of great sleep.

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