When stress builds up, work piles on, and life gets busy, sleep is often the first thing many people--students and working adults alike--sacrifice first in order to accomplish more. However, the immediate gratification of supposedly higher productivity is overshadowed by potentially long-term consequences for cognitive functions, especially memory.
Anyone who has made the unfortunate error of attempting to pull an all-nighter has undoubtedly experienced the pitfalls of lack of sleep, which can include grogginess, poor judgment, heightened negative emotions, and trouble remembering information. Furthermore, in addition to recall, sleep deprivation (even after just one night) has the potential to impact the way our brains form and absorb those memories. Although memories can be acquired while we are awake, their consolidation and long-term absorption are dependent on sleep--in fact, without it, your brain is unable to form new memories at all. Italian researchers have even found that lack of sleep can even prompt astrocytes, whose functions include cleansing worn-out cells, have increased activity rates in the brains of sleep-deprived mice--meaning that these neurological connections essential to memory formation are literally eaten away during periods of low sleep.
Significant Negative Consequences
The consequences of this deterioration lead to more than just exhaustion--over time, it leads to an accumulation of a dangerous protein called beta-amyloid which researchers have linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Although the way that people affected by Alzheimer’s also experience insomnia, sleepwalking, and daytime exhaustion has been clearly observed, accumulation of beta-amyloid presents a causal link between poor sleep and the development of the disease itself. Deep sleep (also known as delta or non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep), the stage in which dream activity ceases and it becomes extremely difficult to wake the sleeper, is absolutely essential to dementia prevention because it is the only window when the brain’s ‘cleaning system’ is able to successfully rid itself of the beta-amyloid accrued during the day. When beta-amyloid levels increase, they form deposits of ‘plaque’ that inhibits information synthesis and kills neurons--a process that occurs long before other symptoms of Alzheimer’s present themselves. Fortunately, by watching for these deposits as early as middle age, it may be possible to take preventative steps and attempt to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
It's Both A Global Health Problem And An Economic Problem
The problem of sleep deprivation is rapidly becoming a worldwide phenomenon, with nearly half the global population falling short of the recommended seven hours (children and adolescents, of course, require more). While lack of sleep has particularly devastating impacts on memory consolidation, it also raises a host of other health concerns, including depression, severe anxiety, raised heart attack risk, decreased virility, and weakening of the immune system. And if that isn’t enough incentive to prioritize sleep, consider the far-reaching effects sleep deprivation has on the world economy in the form of millions of dollars of increased healthcare costs and productivity loss. Such statistics, which also estimate that increasing sleeping hours to seven or more could add 226.4 billion dollars to the US economy alone, indicate that cutting back on sleep actually has the opposite effect on productivity as intended.
Quick Tips For A Better Sleep
With the significant consequences in mind, consider the following steps to fall asleep and stay asleep:
- Due to how the blue light emitted by electronic devices has been shown to create difficulty in falling asleep, put aside your mobile or laptop computer at least an hour before bedtime. At the very least, set a nighttime filter such as f.lux to filter out blue light and change your device’s settings to yellow.
- Turn your phone to Do Not Disturb or silent while you sleep to avoid being awoken by disruptions
- Sleep in total darkness if possible--doing so allows for deeper and less-disturbed slumber
Above all, establish sleep as a high priority by setting a regular bedtime and wake time for yourself on your calendar. This not only aids in regulating your circadian rhythm and ensuring that you don’t have to ‘time travel’ on a weekly basis, but psychologically signals that bedtime is a set event rather than an arbitrary decision
Prioritize sleep. It's that simple. If you get enough, your life will become easier. If you are someone that suffers from insomnia or other sleeping issues, you should find a doctor to come up with a personalized action plan. Here are some tips on how to find a doctor or therapist in Singapore. You can also speak to a doctor online on RingMD from wherever you are (just click the button below).
Our world-class online doctors can provide you with medical advice, and depending on where you are, they may also be able to write you a medical certificate and online prescription. You have a right to deal with your pain. We’re working to make sure everyone takes health and wellness issues more seriously, and everyone gets the care they need.
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