Yawning and tired after yet another night of insufficient sleep? Congratulations, you’ve joined the millions of individuals across the world who suffer from sleep deprivation, a significant disease that can have a negative impact on both your mental and physical health.
According to World Sleep Day, sleep issues are a “global epidemic” that “threatens the health and quality of life of up to 45 percent of the world’s population,” 7NEWS reported.
But, especially if you’re young, isn’t it simple to make up for lost sleep? You’re back to your fully functioning self after a solid night’s sleep or two, if not a full week of sleep?
Unfortunately, a new study suggests that this may not be the case, even among the young.
Thirteen people in their twenties who slept 30% less than they needed for ten nights had not fully recovered most of their cognitive processes after seven nights of rest.
“This is a well done, albeit small, study with multiple measures to examine the impact of partial sleep deprivation – mainly examining sleep duration using wrist actigraphy, EEG changes and cognitive performance,” sleep medicine specialist Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, who was not involved in the study, said.
“Over the course of seven days, reaction times improved and returned to baseline levels, but other cognitive tasks, such as accuracy, did not fully recover.”
Sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta added: “What the study showed is that there are things like memory and mental processing speed that will not be restored that quickly.”
Definitely, the major parts of sleep loss can be recuperated, but there are things that you’re just not going to get back quickly.
“That’s why it’s so important not to have that sleep debt in the first place.”
Why does your brain need to sleep?
It may have been a tiny study, but the findings are consistent with previous research.
In a lab-based sleep research, participants who had been sleeping less than six hours a night for two weeks and thought they were fine performed just as poorly on cognitive and reflex tasks as people who had been deprived of sleep for two full nights.
Because the brain needs uninterrupted sleep cycles to absorb new abilities, form important memories, and repair the body from the day’s wear and tear, it is important to get enough sleep. Your body is essentially healing and renewing itself on a cellular level when you sleep.
As a result, prolonged sleep deprivation affects your capacity to focus, learn new things, be creative, solve issues, and make decisions.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being awake for just 18 hours can impair your ability to drive as much as having a blood alcohol content of 0.05.
Even skipping sleep for just one night disrupts functioning.
If you go without sleep for a full 24 hours, your blood alcohol level will quickly rise to 0.10, much beyond the 0.08 legal limit in the United States.
Healthy middle-aged adults who slept poorly for just one night developed an abundance of the protein beta-amyloid, which is responsible for the plaques that characterise Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2017 study.
In addition, according to a study published in June, older persons who have trouble falling asleep and wake up frequently at night are at a higher risk of acquiring dementia or dying prematurely from any reason.
What to do
How long will it take you to recover from a lack of sleep?
“We do not know that exactly,” Kolla said, “this study shows that maybe some tasks, especially in younger patients, can take longer to recover following sleep deprivation.”
The trick, according to sleep specialists, is to avoid sleep deprivation in the first place.
“We need to prioritize sleep and try and get at least seven hours each night,” Kolla said.
‘We do not know that exactly.’
“When we cannot, making sure that we have some time to recoup and being aware that sleep deprivation impacts our mood and cognition is important.”
By eliminating smoking and consuming as little alcohol as possible, you can set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Sleep can be improved by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, remaining mentally busy, and maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
You can also improve your sleep by teaching your brain to sleep better.
Experts refer to this as “sleep hygiene,” and recommend creating a relaxing and soothing nighttime routine that includes no TV, smartphone, or blue-light generating device for at least one to two hours before bed.