We all know the importance of sleep, but not all of us are informed about the neurocognitive outcomes of sleep loss. According to recent Gallup surveys, 40% of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention referenced sleep deprivation as a “Public Health Epidemic” affecting more and more individuals each year.
Recent research in Sweden, published in the SLEEP journal, reports that after one night of sleeping less than eight hours, brain tissue loss occurred. This is clearly distressing because this shows that sleep loss may promote neurodegenerative processes. Other research trials also show evidence that sleeping is crucial in supporting brain health.
Recent research published in the United Kingdom describes that sleeping less than eight hours for an entire week changes 700 genes in your body. These affected genes may be linked to serious health consequences from stroke to mortality risks. Chronic poor sleep is also associated with increased cardiovascular problems, an increased risk of obesity, and an increased risk of cancers such as colorectal and breast cancers.
Sleep loss also makes people gain weight, and as studies suggest, this is because sleep deprivation affects the frontal cortex of the brain–the decision center. Research studies report that depriving people of sleep for one night results in noticeable alteration in the way their brains respond to high-calorie foods. Other pivotal and controlled studies have found that levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for increased appetite, increase in individuals who don’t get adequate sleep. On the other side, leptin, the hormone responsible for hunger suppression, is produced less. Individuals also become less responsive to insulin, increasing their chance of getting Type 2 diabetes.
The research findings give an explanation as to why we make poor dietary choices, and when fatigued, why we tend to eat much more. The findings also explain why memory loss and fatigue, as a result of sleep deprivation, lead to poor performance in jobs or school. Lastly, the findings support the idea that our immune system gets weaker when we don’t sleep (we’re more likely to catch a cold).
However, you may be wondering how exactly sleep interrupts brain function? Adenosine, a metabolic byproduct, interrupts neural activity and helps us to sleep. Without sufficient sleep, adenosine accumulates and deteriorates the communication between networks in the brain. So stop it with those all-nighters, college students, and get some sleep!
O’Connor, Anahad. “ How Sleep Loss Adds to Weight Gain.” New York Times. August 6th, 2013. Web. January 19th, 2014. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/how-sleep-loss-adds-to-weight-gain/
Ross, Irene. “ Sleep Deprivation: Here’s What Can Happen.” The Huffington Post. December 9th, 2013. Web. January 19th, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/irene-ross/sleep-deprivation_b_4380627.html
Schocker, Laura. “Here’s A Horrifying Picture of What Sleep Loss Will Do to You.” The Huffington Post. January 8th, 2014. Web. January 19th, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/sleep-deprivation_n_4557142.html?ir=Healthy+Living
“Sleep Deprivation Can Change Your Genes.” The Huffington Post. February 26th, 2013.Web. January 19th. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/26/sleep-deprivation-genes_n_2766341.html