How does sleep boost brain function?
Deep stages of sleep regenerate tissue, build bone and muscle, and strengthen the immune system. However, with advancing age, sleep duration is lighter and less deep.
Sleep benefits learning and memory. The brain replays recently formed memories during sleep and etches them more securely in the brain.
It strengthens brain nerve connections, facilitates learning, and creates memory space.
There is a limit. Brain neurons buttress memories till they reach maximum strength.
Consequences of Insufficient Sleep:
Sleepiness leads to impaired attention, concentration, reasoning, alertness, and problem solving. Sleep loss was involved in the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is linked to 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths every year.
Sleep loss increases risk of on the job injury. Workers with excessive daytime sleepiness have more work accidents and sick days per accident.
Sleep deprivation increases risk for heart disease, cardiac failure, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. It lowers mental and physical energy and increases tension.
Men with sleep apnea have low testosterone levels.
Lack of sleep contributes to depression and anxiety for those who sleep less than six hours a night.
The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, is the greatest risk factor for depression.
Insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss aggravates depression, and depression makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
Sleep deprivation triggers cortisol, which deteriorates skin collagen. Human growth hormone is depressed. Cortisol decreases muscle mass, skin thickness, and bone mass.
Lack of sleep stimulates appetite for high fat and high carbohydrate food. This increases risk for obesity and diabetes.
People who sleep less than six hours a day are thirty percent more likely to become obese compared to those who sleep seven to nine hours.
Sleep-deprived people underestimate their sleeplessness effects. Those whose careers depend on mental alertness overestimate their job function.
People who sleep six hours instead of seven or eight, feel they’ve “gotten used to it.” However, mental alertness testing validates declining performance.There is a point in sleep deprivation when people lose touch with how impaired they are.
The solution: “Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. “ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Source: Scientific American Mind, May/June 2012 Jason Castro; Camile Peri, WebMD Feature.
Contact Dr. Clem for comments or questions at clementhanson.blogspot.com