The Sleep Deprived Human Brain

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We have all had that late night out or it’s been a hot humid night and we have tossed and turned in bed all night. The consequence is a bad night’s sleep; we wake up feeling groggy, finding it hard to get out of bed. It’s a horrible feeling, one that makes us feel like we have been hit in the head by a fast delivery by an Indian pace bowler. The grogginess we know we will feel for the impending sand timer of hours left in the day implores us to stay in our pajamas, moping around in bed or sitting around watching television.

 

 

Fortunately this one off instance of sleep deprivation that has made us feel like we have gone a full 12 rounds with Mike Tyson is recoverable for most. For those of us unlucky enough to suffer this knockout punch each day, such as night shift workers or people exposed to artificial blue light at night the fate can be often worse.

 

Being chronically sleep deprived has been linked to having the same effects as taking cocaine according to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The director, Nora Volkow has dedicated a lot of her recent research on brain imaging and her images have revealed the damaging effects sleep deprivation can have on the human brain. She has shown that lack of quality sleep interferes with cognition and has also linked it to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

It has been known for a while now that lack of sleep interferes with hormones and peptides that can disrupt memory, alertness and can also contribute to weight gain and lead to obesity.

 

We have all heard Dr. Jack Kruse talk about dopamine systems and how the lack of dopamine release from lack of sun exposure causes us to reach for opioids to compensate. You only have to look at the severe issues in the USA when it comes to prescription medication addition. Well it turns out that lack of sleep causes dopamine receptors to malfunction. The brain can continue to make dopamine but the erroneous receivers mean we cannot utilize it correctly. We feel down which causes us to seek more feel good activities such as eating pleasurable high fat and sugar foods or drugs.

 

 

 

We have all done something spontaneous in our lives I am sure. It could have been buying your partner something, a luxury holiday or a naughty food treat. What lack of quality sleep does to the brain is in increases the persons susceptibility to engage in impulsive behaviors and inability to regulate their desires. This links back to the malfunctioning dopamine receptors and inability to find lasting pleasure or satisfaction.

 

Dementia is on the rise in the developed world and many food gurus link its increase to gobbling down excessive chocolate cake, candy and bread. This is a half-truth but the disease is more tied to sleep than it is food, Food cravings is merely a consequence of lack of quality sleep. During sleep the gylmphatic system removes toxins from the brain during sleep; this prevents amyloid plaques from forming, which is what leads to dementia.

 

Getting a Good Night Sleep

 

The good news is all the nasties above are preventable, it’s just figuring out how to get a good night sleep. The below tips will help:

  1. Have a cold room, preferably between 16-18 degree Celsius

  2. Block artificial blue and green light after dark to preserve melatonin – link here to BLUblox nigh time blue blockers

  3. Install black out curtains or wear a sleep mask during sleep

  4. Switch off wifi

  5. Use a magnetic sleep pad

  6. Do not use smart phone an hour before bed to switch off

  7. Get a.m. sunlight to ensure serotonin, dopamine and melatonin production is started

  8. Add sleep promoting plants to your bedroom

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