Ever since we were children, we have been told that sleep is essential, and lack of sleep is detrimental. Yet few of us asked why it is so bad to stay up late, and even fewer got answers. As more and more researches focusing on sleep are being conducted, more details become available, and we can even compile a list of effects that sleep deprivation may have on our health.
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Lapses in memory and poor concentration
Sleep loss is associated with a variety of issues. One of them has recently been reported by an international team of researchers who claim that the severe fatigue experienced due to lack of sleep has the effect similar to that of being drunk. When you are sleep-deprived, your brain cell activity is dampened: they just cannot turn what you see into coherent thoughts properly. That is why driving when you are sleepy is almost the same as driving when you are drunk. You react slowly because your neurons work slower – and to a great extent. Besides general poor performance of neurons, researchers noted sleep-like brainwaves that disrupted the organ’s work: it looked as if some parts of the brain were sleeping, while others kept on being awake.
UCLA researchers who participated in the project even created a video to summarize the study.
Messing up with emotions
Everyone knows that if you get to bed late, it’s very likely that you will feel grumpy in the morning. There is scientific evidence which shows that even one night of sleeplessness can compromise our ability to understand what is important and what is not. As researchers explained, our cognitive processes are affected by the lack of sleep to the extent that we fail to react properly. That being said, we can burst into tears because of a minor issue if we do not stick to our normal 7-hour period of shut-eye. Besides, interruptions to sleep can be as harmful as the lack of sleep itself.
Lack of sleep makes our brain eat itself
It sounds bizarre, but it appears to be true. While normal sleep processes are used to clean the brain and remove the old and worn synapses that worked hard during the day, this mechanism can be used in the evil way when you don’t get enough sleep. It was reported that in case of acute or chronic sleep loss the brain components called astrocytes start eating synapses like microglial cells do when they recycle worn brain elements, but this astrocytic activity harms normal synapses. Such a phenomenon may be associated with the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic sleep loss, which is so common nowadays as many people set careers as their priority, promotes microglia cell phagocytic activity, thus damaging the brain.
One sleepless night can alter your genes
Have you ever noticed that if you have a sleepless night, you are not going to weigh less this morning, whereas normal sleep promotes your metabolism? This is explained by the fact that even one night of staying awake can lead to alterations in the genes which control our cellular biological clocks. The methylation of these genes also changes, which affects the body metabolism. Such an effect contributes to obesity and the risk of type 2 diabetes development.
It seems like this list is not comprehensive, and more dangers lurk in the sleepless waters, so stick to the recommended 7-hour sleep scheme if you have such an opportunity, because sleep deprivation is really a serious issue.