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What Does Insomnia Do To Your Brain

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Electrophysiologic And Physiologic Dysregulation In Insomnia

INSOMNIA BRAIN – Your Brain When You Can’t Sleep

Hyperarousal has been examined using various electrophysiologic and physiologic measures during sleep and wakefulness. EEG indicators of hyperarousal include increased high-frequency EEG activity , decreased activity, and increased REM EEG arousals. As discussed later, physiologic measures include increased body temperature, skin resistance, metabolic rate, and heart rate, among others.

What Happens If You Have Insomnia

People with insomnia have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep for as long as they want to, which means that they get insufficient total sleep. As a result, they may not progress through enough sleep cycles to get proper rest, leading to daytime sleepiness as well as negative effects on mood and thinking.

Sleep deprivation, which often occurs with insomnia, can throw off the balance of sleep architecture. For example, after going without enough sleep, people often experience a REM sleep rebound, spending a disproportionate amount of time in REM sleep. This can cause too much brain activity, which in turn can leave you feeling irritable and may worsen mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

What Causes Problems With Sleep

The things that affect our sleep differ for everyone. They can include:

  • stresses or worries for example, issues with money, housing or work
  • problems with where you sleep for example, if you sleep somewhere uncomfortable or you’re easily disturbed
  • health conditions relating to sleep, also known as sleep disorders
  • being a parent or carer

For more information about sleep disorders, see the Mental Health Foundation and Royal College of Psychiatrists websites, and our list of useful contacts.

“It’s not possible to relax if you don’t have anywhere comfortable and safe at night. This leads to not sleeping and worrying most of the night.”

If problems with sleep are worrying you or affecting your day to day life, it’s a good idea to see a doctor who can give you a health check and help you access treatment and support. If you fill in a sleep diary, you could take this to your appointment to show your doctor.

“My sleep problems are more a case of bedtime procrastination than insomnia as such and, as a consequence, being too tired the next morning. I still haven’t found out what works for me as I can get to sleep once I do get to bed.”

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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.

Insomnia And Your Immune System

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While we sleep, our bodies produce infection-fighting antibodies that help to protect us from contracting viruses like the flu and fight off bacteria that causes illnesses like the common cold. Sleep deprivation leads to a weakened immune system, which means that one of the effects of insomnia on the body is the inability to prevent and fight off sickness, and it can even raise the risk of developing chronic illnesses in the future.

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Bad Chemistry: Study Links Primary Insomnia To Low Levels Of A Brain Chemical

Insomnia can make you feel like your mind is racing out of control. A revealing new study explains why your brain may be unable to put the brakes on your thoughts. It links the problem to low levels of a brain chemical.

The chemical is called gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA is the most common inhibitory transmitter in the brain. It is the brains brake fluid. GABA decreases or stops the transmission of nerve impulses.

A new study shows that GABA levels are reduced by 30 percent in adults with chronic primary insomnia. The study was published in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Sleep.

GABA is reduced in the brain of individuals with insomnia, suggesting overactivity is present, said principal investigator Dr. John Winkelman.

He explained that low GABA levels create an imbalance of brain activity. This may lead to an inability to shut down waking signals in the brain, he said.

If your GABA levels are low, then your mind cant slow down. It may race forward at full speed even when it is time to sleep.

An overactive mind is a key feature of psychophysiological insomnia. At bedtime you are unable to stop thinking and worrying. Your body may be ready for sleep, but your mind remains alert. This state of hyperarousal can make it hard for you to fall asleep.

Most people with insomnia have secondary insomnia. It occurs along with another medical problem, mental illness or sleep disorder. It also may result from the use of a medication or substance.

Tips For Getting A Good Night’s Sleep

Getting enough sleep is good for your health. Here are a few tips to improve your sleep:

Set a schedule go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

Exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day but no later than a few hours before going to bed.

Avoid caffeine and nicotine late in the day and alcoholic drinks before bed.

Relax before bed try a warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine.

Create a room for sleep avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a comfortable temperature, and dont watch TV or have a computer in your bedroom.

Dont lie in bed awake. If you cant get to sleep, do something else, like reading or listening to music, until you feel tired.

See a doctor if you have a problem sleeping or if you feel unusually tired during the day. Most sleep disorders can be treated effectively.

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Create A Routine To Power Down Your Brain

Most people assume that sleep is like breathing: Your body will just do it. Not true. Modern-day living has created so much stimulation during the day that brains now operate at warp speed, and if you dont give yours time to rest, itll continue going at that speed at bedtime, says David Brodner, MD, founder of and principal physician at the Center for Sinus, Allergy, and Sleep Wellness in Boynton Beach, Florida.

At least 30 minutes before you go to bed, start your preparations and then do something relaxing like listening to music or reading. Keep it consistent, and youll train your body to expect sleep after that relaxation period.

How Are Sleep Disorders Diagnosed

How Does Your Brain Regulate Sleep?

To make a diagnosis, your health care provider will use your medical history, your sleep history, and a physical exam. You may also have a sleep study . The most common types of sleep studies monitor and record data about your body during a full night of sleep. The data includes:

  • Brain wave changes
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate and electrical activity of the heart and other muscles

Other types of sleep studies may check how quickly you fall asleep during daytime naps or whether you are able to stay awake and alert during the day.

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Cure For Chronic Insomnia

If your chronic insomnia is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as acid reflux or pain, treating the condition may cure your insomnia.

Chronic health conditions that cause insomnia can be managed with changes in treatment, in turn managing or preventing insomnia. Talk to your doctor about changing medications or treatment plans if a drug youre taking is causing insomnia.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Disorders

The symptoms of sleep disorders depend on the specific disorder. Some signs that you may have a sleep disorder include that:

  • You regularly take more than 30 minutes each night to fall asleep
  • You regularly wake up several times each night and then have trouble falling back to sleep, or you wake up too early in the morning
  • You often feel sleepy during the day, take frequent naps, or fall asleep at the wrong times during the day
  • Your bed partner says that when you sleep, you snore loudly, snort, gasp, make choking sounds, or stop breathing for short periods
  • You have creeping, tingling, or crawling feelings in your legs or arms that are relieved by moving or massaging them, especially in the evening and when trying to fall asleep
  • Your bed partner notices that your legs or arms jerk often during sleep
  • You have vivid, dreamlike experiences while falling asleep or dozing
  • You have episodes of sudden muscle weakness when you are angry or fearful, or when you laugh
  • You feel as though you cannot move when you first wake up

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The Role Of Genes And Neurotransmitters

Chemical signals to sleep

Clusters of sleep-promoting neurons in many parts of the brain become more active as we get ready for bed. Nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters can switch off or dampen the activity of cells that signal arousal or relaxation. GABA is associated with sleep, muscle relaxation, and sedation. Norepinephrine and orexin keep some parts of the brain active while we are awake. Other neurotransmitters that shape sleep and wakefulness include acetylcholine, histamine, adrenaline, cortisol, and serotonin.

Genes and sleep

Sleep studies

Your health care provider may recommend a polysomnogram or other test to diagnose a sleep disorder. A polysomnogram typically involves spending the night at a sleep lab or sleep center. It records your breathing, oxygen levels, eye and limb movements, heart rate, and brain waves throughout the night. Your sleep is also video and audio recorded. The data can help a sleep specialist determine if you are reaching and proceeding properly through the various sleep stages. Results may be used to develop a treatment plan or determine if further tests are needed.

How Much Sleep Do I Need


According to the CDC, adults aged 18 to 60 need 7 or more hours of sleep a night. Every person has different sleep needs, though, so the exact amount needed varies from sleeper to sleeper.

Our sleep calculator can help readers determine when they should be going to bed to wake up refreshed and well-rested.

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Not Getting Sleep Can Literally Make You Sick

Outside of the brain, theres a lot changing throughout the rest of the body during sleep, too. Our heart rate and body temperatures drop, our breathing rate slightly decreases and becomes very regular , and kidney function slows down .

And at the same time, other systems in the body ramp way up during sleep. Theres an increase in the release of growth hormones during sleep , as well as the hormones that regulate appetite. Sleep is also when our muscles repair damage from throughout the day.

Sleep also plays an integral role in regulating the bodys immune system, which is responsible for fighting off all sorts of problems from the common cold to more serious chronic problems like cancer. Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to catch a cold virus when youre sleep deprived and that vaccines can be less effective after a poor night of sleep.

And thanks to all these important roles that sleep plays in the body, chronically getting poor sleep can have some pretty serious consequences. Cutting sleep short by even just two to three hours a night over time has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and premature death.

What Happens During Sleep If You Have A Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders can negatively affect what happens when you sleep. For example, restless leg syndrome or disrupted breathing from sleep apnea can cause frequent awakenings that interrupt the normal sleep cycle, reducing restorative sleep. Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders can lead to insufficient sleep or abnormal sleep architecture.

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Sleep And Mental Health: Why Our Brains Need Sleep

Sleep and Mental Health: Why Our Brains Need Sleep

Sleep for the brain is like gas for a car. When the tank is full we get where we need to be. But as time goes on, the gauge falls lower and lower until the gas is gone and the car stops. Without the fuel it needs, the car is useless.

Our brains operate in a similar way. The only difference is the brains fuel is sleep. Without proper sleep, our minds begin to slow, unable to operate at their full potential. This happens until the mind becomes so deprived of the rest it needs, it breaks down. And without the commander-in-chief acting accordingly, the rest of the body pays the price.

In this guide, we are going to deep dive into the complex relationship between sleep and mental health, including how these two aspects of health are inversely related, the consequences of sleep deprivation on the mind, and the link between sleep disorders and mental health disorders.

You ready? Were really about to exercise your mind.

While these may seem like comical examples of sleep deprivations effects on the brain, unfortunately, the consequences are much more severe than forgotten names and road rage.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation on Our Psychological StateThe mechanisms of sleep disruption and mental health are complicated to understand. But what scientists do know is that sleep and mental health are intimately related. After all, its during sleep that we process our emotions and memories.

Mental Illness and Sleep Disorders

What Does Your Brain Do While You Sleep

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Sleeping is both a fascinating and necessary process for all human beings. Due to the physiological and neuroanatomical information humans lacked in the past, this phenomenon has always been surrounded by mystery and speculation. However, nowadays, many available research studies explain what the brain does while we sleep.

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This Is What Happens To Your Brain On No Sleep

Bedtime is one of the most important parts of the day for the brain. The latest studies show that when we slumber, the brain performs important housekeeping tasks that clear away the debris of the days work and help reset and restore nerve networks so they are ready to operate again at full capacity when we wake.

But a lack of sleep deprives the brain of this essential rest period, and our ability to get through the day might be compromised. In a small study published in the journal Radiology, a team of Chinese and European researchers report 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.

The researchers compared the brain images of 23 people with insomnia and 30 healthy controls. They specifically focused on white matter volume, which represents nerve cells that are coated in a special protein called myelin that improves their ability to send signals to one another. Earlier brain imaging studies had suggested that people with insomnia have differences in certain parts of the brain that could be connected to inadequate myelin. So Shumei Li from the Guangdong No. 2 Provincial Peoples Hospital and her colleagues compared white matter function among people with insomnia and those who slept well.

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What Is A Sleep Debt

If you havent slept well or long enough for a few days, you might create a sleep debt. Once your debt builds up, you may feel physically and mentally exhausted. Try to make sure you get enough sleep every night to avoid creating this debt. You cant necessarily make up your debt by sleeping a lot on the weekends. Its best to get enough sleep all week long.

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Common Sleep Disorders Include:

  • Insomnia: Difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep or sleep that does not make you feel rested. Insomnia can worsen other problems resulting from brain injury, including behavioral and cognitive difficulties. Insomnia makes it harder to learn new things. Insomnia is typically worse directly after injury and often improves as time passes.
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness: Extreme drowsiness.
  • Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: Mixed-up sleep patterns.
  • Narcolepsy: Falling asleep suddenly and uncontrollably during the day.

Schedule Some Worry Time

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Just as you schedule time to see friends or get a massage, do the same with your worries. Schedule 15 to 30 minutes a day, at least one to two hours before bed, to write down those worries. In addition, create at least one action item you can do to help deal with the issue. Thinking through those potential stressors earlier in the day should help ease how much you worry about them when your head hits the pillow, Chan says. Ideal sleep depends on creating routines and schedules, and this is no different, he says.

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Why Dont People Value Sleep

Most people who donât get enough sleep donât recognize the toll that it takes on their cognitive and mental health.

Many people think of sleep simply as a luxury — a little downtime. They know they feel better when they get a good nightâs sleep and worse when they donât. But sleep actually improves learning, memory, and insight.

âYouâre putting energy in the bank when you go to sleep,â says Barry Krakow, MD, medical director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd. in Albuquerque, N.M., and author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping Through the Night. âOn a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself. Without it, you canât do what you want — physically or mentally.â

And catching up on your sleep is a bigger job than many people realize. If you get less than six hours of sleep a night for a week, for example, youâll rack up a full nightâs sleep debt — too much to make up for with a few hours extra sleep on the weekend.

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