Are you a night owl? Do you regularly stay up late burning the midnight oil? If you’re skimping on sleep, it has serious implications for your brain health. While you might not notice the effects outside of pouring yourself an extra cup of coffee in the morning, the short-term and long-term effects of not getting enough sleep can add up. Why is sleep so critical to brain health?
5 Reasons Sleep Is Critical to Brain Health
- Your Brain Clears Out Toxins: Did you know that certain regions of the brain are more active at night than during the day? New research has discovered the glymphatic system, which clears out and “recycles” toxins in the brain is one of those regions. One of the proteins that is recycled in the system is a key component in the development of amyloid plaque, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
- Repair Wear and Tear: Other than cleaning out toxins, the brain also repairs minor wear and tear at night. One recent study in animals from the University of Pennsylvania found that extended periods of being awake can hurt the neurons needed for cognition, and that the damage could be permanent. (Jing, 2014)
- Create Memories: One of the chemicals that helps to create memories, acetylcholine, is utilized when you sleep and dream. One of the signs of Alzheimer’s is a lack of brain cells that can produce acetylcholine, and consequently, people stop dreaming as frequently.
- Better Productivity and Concentration: Sleep helps to improve a broad range of brain functions, including mental performance, concentration, productivity and cognition. One study found that moderate sleep deprivation led to impairments in motor and cognitive performance similar to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication (Williamson, 2000).
- Difficult Social Interactions: A lack of sleep also impacts your ability to interact socially with others. One study discovered that people who had not slept experienced a reduced ability to differentiate between expressions of anger and happiness (Van Der Helm, 2010). Some researchers also found that a lack of sleep can impact an individual’s ability to recognize social cues and process information.
Improve and Protect Your Brain Health with Reflect Neuropsychology
Reflect Neuropsychology is a leading neuropsychology firm in Southern California, specializing in counseling, therapy and neuropsychological assessment of children, adolescents and adults. We also can address your medicolegal needs and provide expert witness testimony, legal examination of medical records as well as independent medical examinations for capacity assessments and more. As a highly specialized practice, we can focus on evidence-based, personally tailored treatment and evaluation. To learn more about our services and schedule an appointment, visit us online or call us at (818) 324-3800.
Jing Zhang, Yan Zhu, Guanxia Zhan, Polina Fenik, Lori Panossian, Maxime M. Wang, Shayla Reid, David Lai, James G. Davis, Joseph A. Baur and Sigrid Veasey Journal of Neuroscience 19 March 2014, 34 (12) 4418-4431; https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5025-12.2014
Van Der Helm E, Gujar N, Walker MP. Sleep. 2010 Mar;33(3):335-42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20337191
Williamson AM, Feyer AM. Occup Environ Med. 2000 Oct;57(10):649-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10984335