How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain. Image Source: Huffington Post Greece

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain

We sleep less than we should which impacts our brain. Sleep deprivation can cause serious consequences on your health including impaired memory, increased stress, and can even shrink your brain. Sleep deprivation affects millions. It’s obvious that sleep is more than necessary for overall health.

Bedtime is one of the most important parts of the day for our brain. In a small study published in the journal Radiology, a team of Chinese and European researchers reports a more detailed analysis of how insomnia can affect specific types of brain nerves in parts of the brain that regulate cognition, emotion, and sensory processes.

Sleep deprivation can cause the brain to start eating itself. Your brain eating itself is pretty bad news. That kind of damage can lead to some serious problems in the long-run. This activity might be a key explanation for diseases like Alzheimer’s.

All of us have gone through sleep deprivation at some point. Sleep deprivation disturbs your whole day and also makes your life’s other obligations feel like a chore for you. But, how does sleep deprivation affect your brain? Here are some of the most common things that sleep deprivation causes and affects your brain:

Impairs Memory

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Memory. Image Source: Jobmensa Magazin

Sleep Deprivation Impairs Memory. Image Source: Jobmensa Magazin

It is no secret that a good night’s sleep makes you feel better. Not only does sleep give your body the time to rest and recharge, it is also crucial to your brain’s ability to learn and remember.

Sleep is essential for consolidating memories. Researchers from the University of Bristol in England discovered just how devastating the effects of sleep deprivation can be. In a study of flight attendants who worked for long international flights, they found that the flight attendants with less time off had increased the stress hormones (cortisol) levels. With time, the massive cortisol burst actually shrunk the temporal lobe in the attendants’ brains – a region crucial to memory.

Getting enough sleep is even more crucial after learning new skills. Post-learning sleep reactivates new information and consolidates it into long-term storage, where it’s integrated with your past experiences.

Destroys Ability to Focus

Sleep Deprivation Destroys Ability to Focus. Image Source: Araujo e Fazzito

Sleep Deprivation Destroys Ability to Focus. Image Source: Araujo e Fazzito

Your ability to focus is one of the first things to vamoose when you don’t get enough sleep.

The researchers had sleep deprived people perform serial addition/subtraction tasks and measured their cognitive performance. Just 24 hours without sleep led to significant decreases in the cerebral metabolic rate, particularly in the thalamus and prefrontal cortex. In other words, their brains literally slowed down.

When the same researchers used the same methods to study even longer sleep deprivation times (48 and 72 hours), things got even worse. Activity in the thalamus and prefrontal cortex continued to drop off, and so did the participants’ alertness and cognitive performance.

Causes to Overlook Risks

Sleep Deprivation Causes to Overlook Risks. Image Source: Svijet Kladjenja

Sleep Deprivation Causes to Overlook Risks. Image Source: Svijet Kladjenja

Duke University researchers had a group of sleep deprived adults performs a bunch of economic decision-making tasks twice. The first time, the subjects did the tests after a normal night’s sleep. But in the second, they did them after staying up all night.

The Duke researchers used MRI during both tests. They found increased activity in the ventromedial prefrontal region and decreased activity in the anterior insula.

When the subjects were sleep deprived, they became much less sensitive to losses and made riskier decisions to pursue gains. You can see why staying up gambling in a casino might not be such a great idea.

Sleep can feel like an indulgence, especially when we’re busy or stressed; and it’s often the first thing to go at these times. But as the research shows, sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity, and your brain will probably rebel if it doesn’t get enough sleep. So it is high-time to change our attitude towards deep and give it a little more attention than it usually gets.

What do you guys think about sleep deprivation affecting our brain? Let us know through the comments section below.