What Sleeping Less Than 6 Hours A Night Does To Your Weight Mood And Brain
A blissful slumber has always eluded our writer, so armed with expert tips, she re-learns how to sleep properly
Our sleep has taken quite the battering over 18 months of restrictions. The stress of the pandemic has led some to experience sleep difficulties dubbed coronasomnia, adding to the third of us who already suffer from sleep problems, according to the Sleep Foundation. Now, as schedules shift and more people are drifting back to the office, commutes mean that our schedules are shifting again. On top of this, we have the hour change next week, which always leaves me feeling discombobulated for the following week.
Just one hours change is enough to throw you off track, according to Dr Rebecca Robbins, a sleep expert for Savoir, the British bed and mattress makers, and co-author of Sleep for Success! One hour can indeed be enough to throw our internal clock out of sync, she tells me from her laboratory in Boston, where she is instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate scientist at the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Womens Hospital. When we change our sleep schedules by an hour or longer from one day to the next, we are sending signals to the brain that we are attempting to transition to a new time zone, making the next nights sleep challenging.
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How Sleep Clears The Brain
A mouse study suggests that sleep helps restore the brain by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours. The results point to a potential new role for sleep in health and disease.
Scientists and philosophers have long wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain. Sleep is important for storing memories. It also has a restorative function. Lack of sleep impairs reasoning, problem-solving, and attention to detail, among other effects. However, the mechanisms behind these sleep benefits have been unknown.
Dr. Maiken Nedergaard and her colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center recently discovered a system that drains waste products from the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid, a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, moves through the brain along a series of channels that surround blood vessels. The system is managed by the brains glial cells, and so the researchers called it the glymphatic system.
The scientists also reported that the glymphatic system can help remove a toxic protein called beta-amyloid from brain tissue. Beta-amyloid is renowned for accumulating in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Other research has shown that brain levels of beta-amyloid decrease during sleep. In their new study, the team tested the idea that sleep might affect beta-amyloid clearance by regulating the glymphatic system. The work was funded by NIHs National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke .
Your Genes Affect Your Sleep Cycle
Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist , and fellow researchers recently identified a gene involved in the circadian regulation of sleep timing. When researchers removed this genecalled wide awakefrom fruit flies, the flies experienced problems falling asleep and staying asleep. A similar sleep gene exists in both humans and mice. Scientists continue to study this gene in hopes of understanding more about how processes within our cells affect our ability to sleep.
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What Are Good Sleep Habits
Good sleep habits, also called good sleep hygiene, are practices to help you get enough quality sleep.
- Have a sleep schedule: Go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends and vacations.
- Clear your mind before bed: Make a to-do list early in the evening, so you wont stay awake in bed and worry about the next day.
- Create a good sleep environment: Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable. Turn down the lights and avoid loud sounds. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
- Exercise every day: Stay active but try to avoid exercising during the few hours right before bed.
- Relax: Before bed, take a warm bath, read or do another relaxing activity.
- See your healthcare provider: If youve been having trouble sleeping or feel extra drowsy during the day, talk to your provider. There are many treatments available for sleep disorders.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Far from being a state of doing nothing, sleep is an essential part of our lives. It helps our body rest, recharge and repair. There are four sleep stages three in the non-REM phase plus REM sleep. Many factors can affect sleep quality, including the food and drink you consume before bed and room temperature. Many people experience trouble sleeping now and then. But if you think you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Common sleep disorders include insomnia and sleep apnea . Your provider can help you get the diagnosis and treatment you need.
Rapid Microstructural Changes To Waking
The researchers were interested in two main questions: How does the brain change after a normal day of wakefulness and after sleep deprivation?
They focused on three DTI metrics to probe how different features of neuronal tissue may change with waking.
Fig 1. Changes in diffusion tensor imaging indices of white matter microstructure after waking. The participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging in the morning after a night of normal sleep in their own homes, after a day of waking , and then after another 9 hours of waking . Significant increases in fractional anisotropy after a day of waking . Significant decreases in radial diffusivity after a day of waking . Significant decreases in mean diffusivity after a day of waking .Radial diffusivity measures how water diffuses across fibers, whereas axial diffusivity measures diffusion along the length of a tract. Fractional anisotropy is the ratio of axial to radial diffusivity and therefore measures how strongly water diffuses along a single direction.
From morning to evening, FA increased and this was driven mostly by reduced RD. From the evening to the next morning after the all-nighter FA values decreased to levels comparable to the prior morning, and this drop was coupled with a decrease in AD.
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Sleep Helps Your Brain Think More Creatively
On days when youre running short on sleep, your thoughts probably go on a loop that sounds something like this: Im so exhausted. I cant do this right now. I just want to go home and do nothing.
When youve got a one-track mind for crawling into your bed and getting some much-needed rest and relaxation, you probably arent all that concerned about coming up with cool new ideas. Which is one of the reasons why sleep deprivation zaps your ability to be creative.
Of course, theres way more to it than that. While your brain is busy consolidating memories as you sleep, its also forming connections between new ideas and old onessetting the stage for that all-important light bulb moment.
Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America backs this up. After a night of restful sleep, study participants were 33% more successful at completing tasks that required them to make unusual connections in their brain compared to people who hadnt slept yet.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Stage 5 the part of the sleep cycle that involves dreamingis key to boosting creativity.
This Is Your Brain On Sleep
Even though youre lying there all quiet and peaceful, theres a lot going on inside your head while you snooze. How much? Think of it this way: If slumber was an eight-hour play, your brain would be the director, leading you through the various acts that ensure your body achieves restful sleep worthy of rousing applause. Heres what the show would look like:
Stage 1. The lights are dim, youre settled comfortably in bed, and the show is about to get started. At this point, the base of your brain is busy sending signals to the other areas of your brain that its time to stop making you feel awake and start powering down. You begin drifting in and out of sleep, and your eye and muscle activity start to slow down. Youre officially in Stage 1 of non-rapid eye movement sleep. This is gonna be good!
Stage 2. The show is in session, which means everyone needs to be quiet and still. At this point, your sleep is deep enough that you are no longer aware of the world around you. Your brain has told your eyes to stop moving and allows your body temperature to drop. Your brain waves start to slow down.
Stage 5. You could call this the best part of the sleep show. During stage 5, you experience rapid eye movement that gives your brain and body the energy boost youll use to get through the day tomorrow. Since your brain is at its most active during REM sleep, this is also when youll have dreams .
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Sleep Memory And Learning
Another area that has been the focus of much research is the relationship between sleep and learning or memory formation. Scientists know for sure that sleep is crucial for learning but which stage of sleep is more important?
Does learning occur in the light REM sleep stage or the deep, non-REM phase of sleep? How do neurons in different brain areas coordinate across sleep stages to facilitate learning and memory consolidation?
Two studies that Medical News Today reported on help to shed light on these questions.
Can Naps Make You Taller
A single afternoon sleep will not have any effect on your height growth. But over the long term, it affects the growth of certain individuals. Thats because our body produces growth hormones when we sleep. You may have heard in your childhood, parents telling you to sleep if you want to grow taller.
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How Much Sleep Do You Need
Your need for sleep and your sleep patterns change as you age, but this varies significantly across individuals of the same age. There is no magic number of sleep hours that works for everybody of the same age. Babies initially sleep as much as 16 to 18 hours per day, which may boost growth and development . School-age children and teens on average need about 9.5 hours of sleep per night. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but after age 60, nighttime sleep tends to be shorter, lighter, and interrupted by multiple awakenings. Elderly people are also more likely to take medications that interfere with sleep.
In general, people are getting less sleep than they need due to longer work hours and the availability of round-the-clock entertainment and other activities.
Many people feel they can “catch up” on missed sleep during the weekend but, depending on how sleep-deprived they are, sleeping longer on the weekends may not be adequate.
Hacks To Help You Fall Asleep
Part of this has to do with the fact that insulin sensitivity fluctuates during the day meaning our bodies actually metabolize food differently at different times of the day, she says. And though theres a lot more research thats needed to fully understand the connection between sleep and metabolism, its clear that theyre connected, she says and likely has a lot to do with why people who report getting worse sleep are more likely to be overweight.
The bottom line, says Bazil: sleep is not a waste of time and you cant get away without it.
When it comes to staying healthy, people pay a lot of attention to nutrition and physical activity, Bazil says which are both very important. But I would put sleep on that same level.
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Creates And Consolidates Memories
We need our brains and bodies to be well rested in order to form new memories. During sleep, our brains take new memories, solidify them, and connect them to older ones, making for a consolidated memory network. If you keep forgetting where you put your car keys, it might be because youre not getting enough sleep.
Sleep and sleep deprivation bidirectionally alter molecular signaling pathways that regulate synaptic strength and control plasticity-related gene transcription and protein translationsleep oscillations before encoding refresh human hippocampal learning capacity, while deprivation of sleep conversely impairs subsequent hippocampal activity and associated encodingthe unique neurobiology of sleep exerts powerful effects on molecular, cellular and network mechanisms of plasticity that govern both initial learning and subsequent long-term memory consolidation.
Total Sleep Deprivation Effects On The Brain
Total sleep deprivation is typically classified as going at least one full night without sleep.6 Your ability to complete tasks with speed and accuracy begins to decrease soon after this. Sleep deprivation can affect your short- and long-term memory.7 Some studies suggest that memory is negatively impacted by impaired synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus.
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We’re Sleeping Less Than We Used To Which Is Having A Huge Impact On Our Brains
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Last year, a report revealed that 80 per cent of Brits are suffering from lack of sleep, and doctors and teachers are the most sleep-deprived of all.
Whats more, sleep deprivation costs the UK economy £40 billion a year, due to our reduced productivity and health.
Some people claim they can happily survive on less sleep than others, but on the whole were sleeping less than we used to – according to the latest figures from the Sleep Council, 74 per cent of Brits sleep for less than seven hours a night, and the number of people who say they get less than five hours has grown from seven to 12 per cent.
Crucial Activities Your Brain Does While You Sleep
Gone are the days when we thought that our brains go to sleep with our bodies at night. We now know that the brain never sleeps .
Weif were smartspend one third of our lives asleep. For some, that seems like a waste of time. But sleep is crucial for good health and more: our brains are freed up from conscious activity to catch up on the homework.
Neural activity during sleep is almost at the same level as while awake. So what are we doing without knowing that were doing it? Besides regular involuntary bodily functions like digesting food, breathing, sending signals to organs to keep working, etc., your brain is conducting more active cognitive processes than you may realizeall the more reason to embrace sleep as your very good friend.
Here are just five purposes of sleep from the brains perspective .
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Sleep Recommendations And Cultural Disparity
The recommended amount of sleep and sleep quality for children under 5 years old by the National Sleep Foundation in the USA
Cross-cultural disparities of the developmental trajectory for sleep parameters over the first 3 years of life. Grey dots represent the samples. The orange line represents the trajectory curve fitted by the data from the Asian region samples the dark blue line represents the non-Asian region samples and the red dashed line represents all samples. a Total sleep duration. b Nighttime sleep duration. c Daytime sleep duration. d Number of night wakings. e Bedtime in the evening. f Waketime in the morning .
Sleep Deprivation Kills Your Brain Cells
In a study that was published in 2014 in the Journal of Neuroscienceresearchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine made an alarming discovery that lack of sleep can result in irreversible loss of brain neurons.
The study was conducted on mice, whose brain is known to be surprisingly similar to the human brain. The mice were put on a schedule similar to the one that is used by people who work night shifts or long hours. In each 24 hour period, the mice got only 4 to 5 hours of sleep.
The results were astounding. After just three day of this schedule, the sleep-deprived mice lost 25% of brain cells in part of the brain stem, the damage that seemed to be irreversible.
According to the studys authors, because of the similarity between the brains of mice and humans, it is very likely that the human brain suffers from the same loss of neurons when deprived of adequate sleep. This is something that researchers planned to further investigate by conducting autopsies of shift workers.
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Tracking Sleep Through Smart Technology
Millions of people are using smartphone apps, bedside monitors, and wearable items to informally collect and analyze data about their sleep. Smart technology can record sounds and movement during sleep, journal hours slept, and monitor heart beat and respiration. Using a companion app, data from some devices can be synced to a smartphone or tablet, or uploaded to a PC. Other apps and devices make white noise, produce light that stimulates melatonin production, and use gentle vibrations to help us sleep and wake.
Sleep Enables Brain Cells To Communicate Effectively
In a fourth study on brain and sleep published recently in Nature Medicine, researchers found neurological explanation to the mental sluggishness that is so familiar to any of us whove ever had to take an exam, drive a car or perform any other cognitively demanding activity while sleep deprived. Specifically, the study authors found that lack of sleep severely impairs the ability of brain cells to communicate effectively.
In the study, 12 participants who were preparing to undergo surgery for epilepsy had electrodes implanted into their brains and were asked to stay up the entire night. Several times throughout the night, researchers asked them to categorize images of faces, places and animals as fast as possible. They noticed that as people got drowsier, their reactions got slower. The researchers monitored the brain activity at the same time, paying particular attention to neurons in the temporal lobe, which regulates visual perception and memory. They were able to see that the slowed down response time was due to the less effective communication between their brain cells.
One of the studys authors, Dr. Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of California, Los Angeles explained in a statement: We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly. This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us.
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