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How Sleep Deprivation Affects The Brain

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Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

Sleep Deprivation Effects: How Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Brain & Emotions

The need for sleep changes as we get older. As babies and into our teenage years, sleep is vital for healthy stimulation and growth. There are frequent naps and longer periods of sleep that occur. Once we enter the adult phase of our life, the need for sleep declines, but can be neglected if not careful.

Establishing a regular sleep pattern makes a difference to our mental and physical health. From the time we wake up in the morning to the time we get ready for bed at night, there are things that can be done to promote a better nights sleep and can help with how to keep a consistent sleep schedule.

Determine which times work best for our own needs and preferences. Going to bed earlier doesnt necessarily mean youll receive better sleep. The opposite may be true if youre lying in bed wide awake. Its better to go to bed when youre feeling tired rather than having your alertness keeping you awake.

Know what steps it takes to get your brain in the mood of going to sleep by following through the same motions every night. Set aside time to take a warm bath or shower, brush your teeth, and other nighttime rituals that signal your brain that its nearly time to go to bed. Dim the lights in your bedroom, adjust the temperature to a cooler setting, and engage in quieter activities in the hours leading up to sleep.

Attention And Working Memory

The two most widely studied cognitive domains in SD research are attention and working memory, which in fact are interrelated. Working memory can be divided into four subsystems: phonological loop, visuospatial sketchpad, episodic buffer and central executive . The phonological loop is assumed to temporarily store verbal and acoustic information the sketchpad, to hold visuospatial information , and the episodic buffer to integrate information from several different sources. The central executive controls them all. Executive processes of working memory play a role in certain attentional functions, such as sustained attention , which is referred to here as vigilance. Both attention and working memory are linked to the functioning of frontal lobes . Since the frontal brain areas are vulnerable to SD , it can be hypothesized that both attention and working memory are impaired during prolonged wakefulness.

What Are Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect the ability to sleep well on a regular basis. Whether they are caused by a health problem or by too much stress, sleep disorders are becoming increasingly common in the United States.

In fact, more than More than 70 percent of high school students report getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep on weeknights.

Most people occasionally experience sleeping problems due to stress, hectic schedules, and other outside influences. However, when these issues begin to occur on a regular basis and interfere with daily life, they may indicate a sleeping disorder.

Depending on the type of sleep disorder, people may have a difficult time falling asleep and may feel extremely tired throughout the day. The lack of sleep can have a negative impact on energy, mood, concentration, and overall health.

In some cases, sleep disorders can be a symptom of another medical or mental health condition. These sleeping problems may eventually go away once treatment is obtained for the underlying cause.

When sleep disorders arent caused by another condition, treatment normally involves a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes.

Its important to receive a diagnosis and treatment right away if you suspect you might have a sleep disorder. When left untreated, the negative effects of sleep disorders can lead to further health consequences.

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Just One Night Of Sleep Loss Can Affect Body And Mind Studies Find

    Brains do a lot of work while we sleepfar from being a passive behavior, sleep is actually critical to brain health, and as a result, mental and cognitive health. A few new studies in recent weeks underline how important sleep is, and how detrimental lack of sleep can be. And not just chronic lack of sleep, but a single night of lost sleep. While many people may have heard that sleep deprivation can affect things like metabolism and memory, research is also showing that it can strongly affect anxiety, Alzheimers risk, and even chronic health at the level of our genes.


    An interesting study from the University of California at Berkeley looked at one nights loss of sleep on anxiety and emotion regulation in 18 healthy young adults. After a night of total sleep deprivation, participants reported a 30% rise in anxiety levels, compared to how theyd felt the night beforepeople who were allowed a full nights sleep had no such flood of anxiety.

    And the difference was reflected in their brain scans: Those who were sleep deprived had more activity in their amygdalae, the brain center of fear and anxiety. And in response to watching an emotionally charged video clip, the sleep-deprived participants also had much less activity in their medial frontal cortices, which help govern emotional reactivity. This suggests that sleep may help us keep rein of our emotions. If youve ever felt like an emotional basket case after a night of poor sleep, this may be why.

    How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need

    You Dont Want to Know What Sleep Deprivation Does to Your Brain ...

    Everyone feels better after a good nights rest. But now, thanks to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, you can aim for a targeted sleep number tailored to your age.

    The foundation based its report on two years of research andbreaks it down into nine age-specific categories, with a slight range thatallows for individual preference:

    • Older adults, 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours.
    • Adults, 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours.
    • Young adults, 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours.
    • Teenagers, 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours.
    • School-age children, 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours.
    • Preschool children, 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours.
    • Toddlers, 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours.
    • Infants, 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours.
    • Newborns, 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours.

    Dr. Walia says theres evidence that genetic, behavioral and environmental factors help determine how much sleep an individual needs for their best health and daily performance.

    But a minimum of seven hours of sleep is a step in the rightdirection to improve your health, she says.

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    What Are The Psychological Effects Of Sleep Deprivation Is There A Link Between Insufficient Sleep Mental Health Disorders

    Absolutely. Not getting enough sleep or poor-quality sleep can increase risk for mental health disorders. While insomnia can be a symptom of psychiatric disorders, like anxiety and depression, it is now recognized that sleep problems can also contribute to the onset and worsening of different mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.

    Sleep deprivation studies show that otherwise healthy people can experience increased anxiety and distress levels following poor sleep. Those with mental health disorders are even more likely to experience chronic sleep problems and, in turn, these sleep problems are likely to exacerbate psychiatric symptoms and even increase risk for suicide. The good news is that there are ways to improve sleep quality and quantity, so identifying and addressing sleep problems is critical to alleviating the severity of psychiatric disorders.

    Slower Cognitive Processing Scores Could Equate To Significant Real

    That number might not sound large, but its a significant change statistically speaking, Ochab says. And it could have meaningful real-world consequences, such as if youre in a high stakes job like one that requires you to operate heavy machinery, perform surgery, or direct air traffic, he explains. Any drop in performance might be significant in your real life.

    The actigraphs also revealed that chronic sleep deprivation had lasting effects. At baseline, study participants sat still or took on physical activity for prolonged periods . But during the sleep deprivation phase of the study, their wrist sensors indicated participants were moving every 5 to 10 minutes. During the recovery phase, participants rest and activity patterns were closer to what they were at the start of the study, but still more disrupted on average.

    Clearly sleep deprivation caused participants to be agitated, Ochab. The actigraph results dont record what activity was being done, but the patterns suggest that when sleep deprived, the study participants were less able to sit still to work for long periods of time or do an activity without stopping to rest every 5 to 10 minutes.

    And finally, on the basis of EEG monitoring, electrical activity in study participants patterns of brain activity was also still disrupted after seven days of recovering from a lack of sleep.

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    Your Mood Is Disturbed

    Grumpy, cranky, tired or just plain annoyed after a bad night of sleep? You are not alone!

    Regular sleep loss can increase negative mood states, which basically means you might feel more irritable. It can also lead to problems with relationships.

    In fact, depression is overrepresented in people with sleep disorders, and insomnia is a risk factor for developing or recurring depression. Treating sleep problems can help with reducing depression and its symptoms.

    Thats not all! Sleep deprivation not only affects your mood, but also your ability to interpret and understand emotional signals.

    For instance, after one night of sleep deprivation, participants in a study had trouble distinguishing whether facial expressions were threatening or non-threatening. Sleep deprivation can impair the central and peripheral nervous system, making you perceive others as threatening.

    Increased Risk Of Obesity

    How Sleep Affects Your Brain

    Your sleep could be to blame for your cravings, unhealthy food choices and weight gain, says Cralle. “Numerous research studies have shown that sleep deprivation plays a major role in weight gain and obesity, negatively affecting hormones that are key to healthy weight management,” she warns.Insufficient sleep has been tied to increased appetite, metabolic changes, unhealthy food choices and lack of energy or motivation to exerciseall factors that contribute to weight gain.In addition, Cralle adds, insufficient sleep increases ghrelin, the hunger hormone produced by the body. “Too much ghrelin causes your body to crave sugary and fatty foods so you can stay awake,” she explains. “Leptin, which does the opposite, tells the brain when the body is full and to stop eating. Leptin plummets when you dont get enough sleep, signaling the brain to eat more food.”Sleep is far more than just a period of restits an active and essential bodily function that can help you maintain a healthy weight, keep you safe and healthy, prevent disease and improve your day-to-day focus and performance.

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    How Are Memory And Sleep Connected

    Sleep and memory share a complex relationship. Getting enough rest helps you process new information once you wake up, and sleeping after learning can consolidate this information into memories, allowing you to store them in your brain.

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    65 years or older7-8 hours

    Some studies have found sleep quality decreases with age. This is tied to slow-wave sleep. Slow waves are produced in an area of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex. The medial prefrontal cortex will deteriorate over time, and as a result, older people typically experience less slow-wave sleep during a normal sleep cycle and have a harder time processing memories.

    Are There Foods That Promote Sleep And Foods We Should Avoid And Can Sleeping More Help You Lose Weight

    Reduced sleep has been linked with increased eating and higher risk for weight gain and obesity. Conversely, studies show that getting more sleep can lead to consuming fewer calories and improve weight loss.

    While some foods, such as milk products, fish and fruit have shown some sleep-promoting effects, research is too limited to draw definitive conclusions or recommendations about specific foods to help sleep. Growing research suggests that the quality of diet or having sufficient nutrients can impact the quantity and quality of sleep. Low fiber, high saturated fat, high sugar diets have been associated with poorer quality sleep. Another large study found that deficits in nutrients, like as calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, were associated with sleep problems. As such, its likely most important to focus on eating a balanced and consistent diet and creating healthy food-related sleep habits, such as limiting caffeine intake in the afternoon/evening and trying not to eat large meals too late.

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    What Are The Effects And Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation

    The symptoms of sleep deprivation are wide ranging and some are more dangerous than others.

    When people suffer from sleep deprivation, the lack of sleep can weaken the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections. If this happens, a longer recovery time is often expected to return to full health.

    Not sleeping enough can also result in significant weight gain due to a hormonal imbalance between the hormones that typically regulate hunger and the feeling of being full.

    Proper sleep encourages healing within the vascular walls and when this occurs, blood pressure is naturally regulated. A lack of sleep can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.

    Some studies have suggested that a lack of sleep might have some correlation to developing type 2 diabetes, although the studies dont conclusively point to causation. Still, there is reason for concern.

    Fatigue due to lack of sleep can have a profound impact on memory and attention, making it difficult for people to function at high levels at work or school.

    A study by the University of California San Diego and the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System used brain imaging technology to show that cognitive impairment from sleep deprivation caused increased activity of the prefontal cortex, meaning this part of the brain was more active than normal to compensate for not having proper sleep.

    The brain is highly sensitive to being sleep deprived causing cognitive abilities to be impaired.

    • Body aches

    Chronic Partial Sleep Restriction

    Your brain may eat itself when youre overtired: study

    It is difficult to compare the effects of total and partial SD based on existing literature due to large variation in methodologies, including the length of SD or the type of cognitive measures. The only study that has compared total and partial SD found that after controlling learning effects, cognitive performance declined almost linearly in the course of the study in all four experimental groups : one group was exposed to 3 nights total SD, and in other experimental groups, time in bed was restricted to 4 or 6 h for 14 consecutive days. The control group was allowed 8 h in bed for 14 days. Impairment in psychomotor vigilance test and digit symbol substitution task for the 4 h group after 14 days was equal to that of the total SD group after 2 nights. Deterioration in the serial addition/subtraction task for the 4 h group was similar to that of the total SD group after 1 night. The effect of 6 h restricted sleep corresponded to 1 night of total SD in psychomotor vigilance and digit symbol. Performance remained unaffected in the control group.

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    Worsens Mood And Behavior

    Kids can get moody or silly when theyre tired. They may have less self-control than they usually do. And they might get frustrated or lose their temper more easily. Having a shorter fuse may cause them to give up on homework or tests. And if they lose their temper, they might end up in the principals office instead of the classroom.

    Can Sleep Disorders Affect Cognition

    Sleep disorders frequently involve insufficient or fragmented sleep, so it comes as little surprise that they can be linked to cognitive impairment.

    Insomnia, which can involve problems with both falling asleep and staying asleep through the night, has been connected to both short- and long-term cognitive problems.

    Obstructive sleep apnea is another one of the most common sleep disorders. It occurs when the airway gets blocked, which then leads to lapses in breathing during sleep and reduced oxygen in the blood.

    OSA has been linked with daytime sleepiness as well as notable cognitive problems related to attention, thinking, memory, and communication. Studies have also found that people with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing dementia.

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    How Did We Do

    After staying up until 04:00, we were allowed four hours’ sleep.

    When we re-did the cognitive tests later in the morning, Evan, Cecilia and I scored significantly worse than we had the night before.

    Hooman – who is used to being on-call and responding to patients – did not see much of a dip in his score, while Sylvie’s actually improved.

    Sylvie said: “Although I feel a bit fuzzy this morning, maybe I’ve just got used to functioning on very little sleep I have to be on as soon as my kids wake up, so it’s normal for me.”

    I have long known that I don’t function well when sleep deprived, so it was no surprise that my cognitive scores dipped dramatically in the morning.

    In order to find out what might be happening in my brain, I repeated the cognitive tests while inside an MRI machine.

    I was scanned twice – after a normal night’s sleep and then after the sleep-deprived night.

    The functional MRI scanner is able to detect blood flow in the brain – so the areas that are working hardest show increased levels of activity, shown as orange coloured blobs.

    The comparison between the scans was stark: after being sleep deprived, my brain was well under par – there was much less going on up there.

    Prof Owen gave the scientific explanation: “There is much less activity in the frontal and parietal lobes – areas we know are crucial for decision making, problem solving and memory. “

    But the more subtle effects of sleep deprivation on day-to-day living are far less understood.

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