All animals need sleep. Humans have to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night to properly function. However, about 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. When you do not get enough sleep, your brain stops functioning properly and eventually will stop working. After 3 or 4 nights of missed sleep, you will begin hallucinating. Sleep is what keeps your brain, and therefore your body, working.
The brain is where memories are formed and kept. It is responsible for creating and storing long-term and short-term memories. To have mentally strong memories, research has shown that you have to sleep. Specifically, during REM sleep your brain processes the information from the day and sorts your thoughts into long-term or short-term memories. People who do not get enough REM sleep remember things 40% less than people who do get enough REM sleep. When you are learning new information, it is recommended to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep which ensures you go into REM sleep.
Trying to comprehend new information when you are tired can be almost impossible. Sleep deprived brains have a very difficult time processing information. Studies have shown that when you are sleeping your brain is still working. Sleeping helps your brain process any information you received during the day, but that is not all it does. The brain continues taking in new information while you are sleeping. By sleeping you can quickly categorize information without any additional distractions.
Sleep is important for your body to function. Your brain controls everything in your body including large and fine motor movement. It also controls how well you pay attention. A sleepy brain cannot concentrate and will try to overcorrect itself. One study showed that a sleep deprived brain and a drunk brain behave and react similarly. Certain functions are impaired and the only way to regain control is to go to sleep. Part of this is due to an increase in neurotoxins, which are only released during REM sleep.
Your level of creativity is not something that changes over time. If you are a creative person, you will always be creative. However, when you are exhausted it can be difficult to concentrate or think of new ideas. The brain is where all new ideas are formed and categorized by level of importance. In a sleep deprived brain thinking creatively or coming up with new ideas is almost impossible. This is also backed by research. A study in the United States showed that people who sleep well were 33% more successful at creative thinking tasks than people who did not sleep. REM sleep also plays an important factor in creativity. In fact, people who were able to get REM sleep (even in short bursts) performed 40% better on word problems than those who were not able to get to REM sleep.
As you go about your day your body creates waste or toxins. Toxins are anything potentially harmful to the brain or body and are typically small molecules. It is important to rid yourself of those toxins to maintain a healthy, functioning body. The brain, during thinking, creates toxins and accumulates them throughout the day. Research is still being done on the human brain, but scientists have seen interesting things in mice brains. They found that while the mice slept their brain cells expanded and washed away toxins. Scientists found that some of the toxins in the mice brains were actually associated with brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Assuming something similar happens in humans, by sleeping through the night you are allowing your brain cells to expand and get rid of potentially harmful molecules.
Not surprisingly, the brain is what decides if you are hungry, full, or satiated. While the brain does receive signals from other organs, such as the stomach, the brain is the one who decides to eat or not to eat. People who are not getting enough sleep are more prone to weight gain. When you are tired, you release more hormones telling you to eat. This translates to an increase of about 300 more calories a day when you are sleep deprived. Also, people who are sleep deprived tend to make worse choices when it comes to food. However, if you can sleep better you will begin making healthier choices again.
While the term "beauty rest" is well known, it is also true. If you can get an adequate amount of sleep every night, studies have shown that your appearance will improve. While you sleep, your brain releases growth hormones. These growth hormones are responsible for growing new cells and repairing damaged ones. It helps to tone your face and create a younger complexion. In a study of people with sleep apnea, after 2 weeks with a sleep aid, these people said they had fewer wrinkles and less redness. Even people outside of the study said that those people looked more youthful and attractive. By getting the proper amount of sleep your body will look younger and healthier.
In the mornings, you may have noticed people tend to be rude or even angry. This is because most people are tired in the morning. When you do not sleep well, you have a harder time recognizing emotions and facial expressions. Specifically, people have a harder time distinguishing between anger and pleasure. Being unable to recognize human emotions or social cues means that you are unable to properly understand what others are trying to express. This leads to future misunderstandings and even arguments.
As many sleep deprived people know, mental health issues are linked to the amount of sleep you get. A shocking 90% of people with depression say that they have problems sleeping. When you get enough sleep you can make connections and see the world differently. A sleep deprived brain has problems making emotional connections. Since humans are social animals, it can cause people to feel depressed or unwanted. With more sleep, you can make those connections and decrease depression.
Develop the Brain
Finally, sleep is important in brain development. In kids, sleep is when most of their brain growth occurs. Kids who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have ADHD symptoms than kids who do get enough sleep. While studies are ongoing as to why this is true, there seems to be a link between mental health and sleep deprivation.
The brain is one of the most important organs in your body. If you continue to take care of your brain, your brain will continue to take care of you.
What You Can Do
If you have ever experienced difficulty staying awake while driving, or often feel tired during the day, there is a chance that your symptoms may be due to an untreated sleep disorder. At the Alaska Sleep Clinic we treat thousands of Alaskans every year for sleep disorders, and for many patients the most common complaint is chronic drowsiness. Give us a call today and we can help you start sleeping better so you can drive safer.