Sleep deprivation effects on the brain: Tips to using sleep to calm the mind and stay healthy
Insufficient sleep puts us at risk of obesity, heart disease, frequent mental distress, mood disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
Counting sheep doesn’t usually work. Relaxation apps are also hit and miss when it comes to sleeping. Yet research shows we’re getting less sleep than recommended, and that this lack of shut-eye can take a serious toll on our brain, body and immune system. Sleep deprivation effects on the brain have been studied by scientists, medical professionals and others. According to WebMD, about 70 million Americans have sleep problems. The report shows that 1 in 3 adults get less than the minimal 7 hours of nightly sleep experts recommend.
Dangers of too few ZZZs: What is sleep deprivation impact on cognitive performance and health?
Lack of sleep is bad for our health.
Dangers of too few sleep hours include a higher probability of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Research has linked sleep deprivation to arthritis, thyroid problems, chronic pain and neurological disorders such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s.
Sleep deprivation can also mean falling asleep at the wheel and causing accidents; job performance drops; rise in relationship troubles; and more memory problems and mood disorders.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States says sleeplessness is an “epidemic” public health crisis.
Sleep deprivation effects on the brain, hunger, and illness
Research shows that even just one sleepless night can also boost levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, that pushes us to eat more and crave junk foods. Not enough sleep means our body is less able to metabolize the sugar in the fatty junk food and this then leads to a boost in our risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Other side effects of sleep deprivation
Studies also show that people who sleep less than 6 hours a night for a week are four times more likely to catch a cold.
And recent research also shows that if we don’t get deep sleep, it can lead to cognitive decline.
88 reasons we’re not sleeping
“There are many different flavors of sleep problems, and people need to stop thinking about them as just one thing,” Michael Breus, PhD, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist, tells WebMD. “To find lasting relief, you have to know what your root causes are.”
Researchers say there are at least 88 distinct sleep disorders. Some of the sleep disorders trace back to our genetics: we were born this way. Other reasons for not being able to sleep are connected to our age and our daily actions.
When we age, the pineal gland in our brain, which produces the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, begins to shrink and calcify, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, professor of psychiatry, at Stanford University. So, melatonin supplements can help in getting better sleep.
Obesity can cause sleep apnea but not everyone with sleep apnea is obese.
So, for those of us suffering from problems with slumber or sleep deprivation effects on the brain, what can be done to keep our health balanced?
Exercise and healthy eating: take action if you see signs of sleep deprivation
Studies show that exercising regularly can help keep your body in good shape for sleeping. It is not recommended to work up a sweat just before bedtime, as that will wake you up.
Eating easily digestible foods will help you catch the right number of ZZZs. Try to steer clear of caffeine, spicy foods or alcohol 4-6 hours before bed. Instead, a bowl of cereal, a glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile tea are the kinds of foods that will raise your body temperature and make you sleepy.
Deep breathing and a book
And if you’re still lying in bed wondering why you can’t sleep, instead of counting sheep, try to breathe deeply instead. A warm bath and a good book also help relax your body.
Still having trouble sleeping? Talk to a doctor before serious side effects of sleep deprivation become a problem.