As day-light savings inevitably descends for the fall season, we can give consideration to understanding the benefits of sleep. As with many other circumstances that we value, we miss it when we do not have it! In the modern 24-hour society, insufficient sleep has global public health implications. According to the latest reflections from the National Institutes of Health, about 40% of Americans experience problems and 70 million have chronic sleep deprivation.
Taking Lessons from Neuroscience
Truly, the best way to grasp the value of sleep is to receive lessons from neuroscience – a growing field that has spent significant time looking at the relationship between sleep and the brain – and what happens when we do not receive sleep.
According to current evidence, those who are sleep-deprived have poorer memory, impaired thinking skills, and react more slowly during conversations. The fact that so many of us – including our family members, peers, friends, and co-workers – take much pride in losing sleep to do more work and become productive gives way to some misunderstanding. When we consistently choose work over sleep, we are choosing quantity over quality. The impact at school, work, and at home are tremendous – a good night’s rest can offer us a sharper focus, positive mood, increased alertness, and a proactive mindset.
Sleep restores the body and mind and creates optimal functioning during the waking state. High blood pressure, obesity, stress, and anxiety with poorer mental health are common conditions of those that suffer from impaired qualities of sleep and unrest. Sleep has continued to hold measures of fascination for many throughout the centuries. Our brains during cycles of sleep are like the smartphone. Even though we may not be looking at the screen all night, it never remains idle.
The brain has limited energy at its disposal and must either be aware and awake or asleep and cleaning. Sleep states allow for us to wash away the brain’s waste chemicals and toxins from the day for simple maintenance. We call this “mental wastage” where the brain is actively cleaning and permanently eliminating any short and long-term toxins that distract us from fresh learning opportunities for the following day. It can be like freeing up space and ensuring a faster processing speed. Waste elimination during sleep is responsible for learning, memory, and regulating our emotions, mood, and appetite. We can say that sleeping less to work more is as logical as not stopping to refuel the gas tank to reach our final destination!
Here are some ways that sleeplessness can impact our mind, body, and work productivity:
You forget simple things
The hippocampus, the brain area centrally responsible for learning and memory, becomes disrupted on a single night of sleep deprivation. This brain region allows us to move through space and remember information in both short and long-term memory. Difficulty with concentration, being prone to more mistakes, having challenges in remembering numbers and facts, and experiencing a drop in performance are all outcomes of not getting enough quality rest. You may need to focus much more on tasks that might have come much more naturally before, and it makes focusing much more painful!
You are more prone to anger and anxiety
Sleep will release a chemical reaction in the brain that will be responsible for emotion regulation and mood alteration. Melatonin is the main brain hormone involved with this process. Your body produces more melatonin in the evening hours to cause you to become more drowsy and sleepy at night and releases less in the mornings to get you awake. Often, a lack of sleep can cause you to feel cranky, irritable, and fussy – and this is noticeable to those around you, since sleep deprivation affects the amygdala, the emotional radar of the brain. Anxiety, anger, and impulsive decisions are fueled by activity in the amygdala. Changes overnight in sleep patterns can impact our behavior and how we relate to others. Negative emotions such as fear and anxiety can contribute to irritability and annoyance when sleep deprivation occurs. Get more sleep if you want to be kind and caring to others!
Your relationships are put at risk
Sleep deprivation can harm your most important relationships. Much of the research from sleep science agrees that there is a reciprocal effect between relationship quality and sleep. Those that are happy in their relationships will sleep much better, and sleeping better will increase the quality of your relationships as well. Friends and colleagues can boast about how little they sleep. Yet with all this knowledge at our fingertips, we know the opposite is true. Sleep gives the brain uninterrupted time and freedom to develop clarity, sharpen focus, cultivate happiness, and increase in the quality of health!
Never settle for anything less than the full power and potential of your brain health on any given day.
There are many lifestyle factors that impact the ability for maintaining sound sleep. If you’re looking to develop healthy sleep habits, here are some tips to consider:
Hectic routines, inexperience with effective time management, and a sleep-unfriendly schedule to the world around you can minimize sufficient sleep and put you at greater risk for sleep deprivation. Research shows that burning the midnight oil will lead to trouble the next day. Shortness of sleep develops challenges with health, safety, performance, and an ability to learn. You would be surprised at how developing healthy sleeping patterns can change your productivity, relationships, mental health and overall lifestyle. Sleep is a biological necessity, and establishing healthy habits and attitudes toward sleep can carry you for a lifetime.