Lack of Sleep and Brain Function

We all know what it feels like to be tired. Whether we can’t focus, feel draggy, get a little irritable, or don’t feel “in the mood” for something, we can unanimously agree that we don’t perform at our best when we’re tired. That is because sleep is extremely important for not only our body but also our minds. We experience these discomforts when we are tired because we are feeling the obvious cognitive effects resulting from sleep deprivation.

How does lack of sleep affect us?

  1. Delays thought process, lowers alertness and concentration. It becomes more difficult to perform tasks that require more complex thinking. This is why we shouldn’t drive or operate machinery when we are sleep deprived.
  1. Impairs judgment. We aren’t able to clearly assess situation compared to when we are fully alert.
  1. Impairs memory. While we sleep, the nerve connections that make our memories strengthen. That is when our short term memory that from that day is being embedded. There are certain ways different phases of sleep store new information as memories. If sleep is deprived or interrupted, we disrupt that process. This is why our memory isn’t as sharp or we’re more forgetful when we aren’t well rested. So of course we should allow our brains to go through all the phases necessary to store all that information overnight! If information doesn’t get embedded as a short term memory, then that information is not going to make it into a long term memory.
  2. Difficulties learning. Having poor memory from being tired also affects our ability to learn. Memory is definitely essential for learning, especially when we want that knowledge to be embedded long term. On top of that, we don’t concentrate clearly. We still feel physically and mentally drained, lazy, and exhausted. Altogether, this makes it difficult to retain information and learn efficiently.
  3. Moodiness. We become irritable and unable to cope with stress like we normally would. This could affect our job performance and relationships as well. Chronic sleepiness increases a person’s risk for depression. Sleep and mood affect each other. This explains why people who don’t get enough sleep get depression or why depressed people struggle with sleep.

To maintain a healthy functioning brain, stable mood, and mental clarity, make sure to get a good night’s rest. It is not worth sacrificing and “catching up on” later. If you want to feel awake, alert, and productive, you know what to do.

 

 

 

Reference:

Coping with excessive sleepiness. (n.d). WebMD. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/emotions-cognitive