What could make you less productive than being drunk?
People who are drunk outperform those who are lacking sleep, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Skipping sleep affects your ability to process information, problem solve, retain information, slows your reaction-time, heightens your stress levels, inhibits your ability to keep your emotions in check and is a downer on your creativity.
Why is your brain so negatively affected by lack of sleep? Research from the University of Rochester found that your brain can only remove toxic proteins that build up while you are awake when you sleep. Lack of sleep means the toxic proteins stay in your brain cells and impair your ability to think.
- The “glymphatic system,” which is a newly found waste removal system in the brain, works 10 times harder during sleep.
- The size of each brain cell decreases up to 60 percent during the sleep cycle. This action increases the space in between the neural cells so the glymphatic system can flow through easier and collect waste.
“Together, these actions allow the brain to efficiently clean itself while we are sleeping. Most neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products. The timely removal of waste from the brain is essential as unchecked, accumulation of toxic proteins such as amyloid-beta, may lead to Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.
Sleep deprivation can also make you fat by compromising your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and resist the temptation to avoid unhealthy food.
“When you aren’t getting enough sleep for your body to perform properly, it does not burn calories as efficiently, can make you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and makes it harder for you to feel satiated because it reduces the level of the hormone leptin,” says Dr. Lokesh Chandra, a cardiologist and sleep specialist on staff at South Suburban.
Getting enough sleep is important for your overall health. Besides helping your brain function optimally and keeping your willpower in check, Dr. Chandra says sufficient sleep is important for your overall long-term health, as well.
Sleep deprivation that continues long-term can put you at higher risk for:
- Heart attacks, heart failure, heart disease and irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure and hypertension
- Colds and flu
- Depression and anxiety
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
For a better chance of quality sleep, Dr. Chandra recommends:
- A quiet, dark and cool room
- Keeping a pad and paper handy to jot down thoughts that wake you up at night
- Exercising in the morning or afternoon, but normally not within three-four hours before bedtime (unless you know you don’t have issues with evening workouts)
- Skipping large, late-night meals – a small bedtime snack is fine
- Avoiding alcohol two-three hours before going to sleep and caffeine within six hours of your bedtime
- Not falling asleep watching TV or surfing the internet or checking emails right before bed
About the Author
Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”