Bags under the eyes, feeling exhausted – we're pretty familiar with what our body feels like if we haven't slept well. But what about our brain? What happens to it when we aren't getting enough zzz's?
Research has proven that there is a strong connection between sleep deprivation and virtually every mental health disorder we know, especially depression and anxiety. Brad Wolgast, University of Delaware psychologist, states:
When you find depression, even when you find anxiety, when you scratch the surface 80 to 90% of the time you find a sleep problem as well.
So, how exactly does sleep deprivation affect our brains?
1. Our memory takes a dive.
Another area of the brain that suffers from sleep deprivation is the hippocampus. This area of the brain is critical for the storing of new memories. When people are deprived of sleep for even one night, their ability to memorise information drops significantly. This is due to impairment in the hippocampus caused by sleep deprivation.
2. Other mental abilities suffer too.
Till Roenneber, a professor at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, says, “Memory capacity is reduced, social competence is reduced. Your entire performance is going to suffer. The way you make decisions is changed.” Yikes!
3. Emotions run high (and are erratic).
Our brain has an "emotional control centre" – the amygdala – and this is affected by lack of sleep. Recent research found that when sleep-deprived participants were shown emotionally-negative images, activity levels in the amygdala were as much as 60% higher than levels in those who were rested. Essentially, your amygdala is going into overdrive when you haven't had enough sleep, as it becomes disconnected from brain areas that normally control its response.
4. You make risky decisions.
Another study, conducted in by researchers at Duke University, revealed when participants had been deprived of sleep for just one night, they started to make fewer decisions that avoided loss, and more decisions that maximised potential gain. In other words, you're more likely to make decisions that seem good, but without considering the risks associated with it.
Keen to keep your brain happy? Find out how a Sleep Cleanse can improve your relationship with sleep and make you a healthier, happier human.