How Sleep Deprivation Affects the Human Organism

When we are young, we forget about sleep for the sake of “another episode ” of our favorite show. In college, we spend the whole day finishing a task. Growing up, we are ready to stay at work until late at night to complete the project as soon as possible. Over time, this can lead to sleep deprivation, lack of sleep, or a complete lack of rest. It seems that nothing serious will happen to us from a temporary lack of sleep, but the consequences can be shocking.

1. Sleep Deprivation Causes Alzheimer’s Disease

In 2019, specialists at the J. Washington University School of Medicine published a study in the journal Science that confirms the relationship between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease. Experts studied the mechanism of the formation of beta-amyloid. During sleep, the brain gets rid of waste. If a person is awake for a long time, this waste remains in the body and turns into amyloid plaques. This plaque affects the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s disease.

However, scientists have discovered another pattern. In the brain of night owls form tau protein deposits, which create tangles that change the structure of the brain.

Researchers have studied how the brains of mice and people deprived of sleep change. It turned out that the protein content responsible for the disease in rodents with a lack of sleep increased 2 times and 1.5 times in humans. The tau protein settles mainly in those parts of the brain that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

People need to get enough sleep to recover from the stresses received during the day. While scientists are not sure whether healthy sleep will protect against malaise, it certainly will not hurt and it will delay irreversible processes in the brain.

2. Causes Anxiety

Another study, conducted at the University of California at Berkeley, examines how a lack of sleep and the ability to control emotions are related. After a day without sleep, the level of anxiety in participants increased by 30% according to experts. People who slept the usual amount did not experience mental health problems.

It turned out that those who did not sleep had increased activity in the areas of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety. Moreover, they were not emotionally involved in the video associated with vivid experiences, unlike the control group.

Healthy sleep acts as a balm, calming us and reducing anxiety. This is a kind of therapy, which many of us forget in the era of lack of sleep.

3. Affects Memories

Harvard University’s Department of Sleep Medicine has determined that sleep quality directly affects our ability to remember important information and crowd out unnecessary things out of our minds. According to researchers, lack of sleep changes the processes of working with memories. Neurons overloaded from lack of rest block access to previously obtained data and do not allow new ones to gain a foothold.

During long wakefulness, a person simply loses the ability to soberly assess a situation, make decisions, plan, and adhere to a strategy. During sleep, the brain launches a program to restore and reduce synapses, which affects the ability to memorize and analyze.

After studying the brains of mice and thousands of slices with an electron microscope, scientists concluded that after sleep, the ligaments between neurons are reduced by 18%. This process creates a space for the formation of new memories. If you experience memory problems contact a good neurologist to determine whether it’s caused by lack of sleep.

4. May Cause Depression

In 2006, the Clinical Journal of Clinical Psychiatry Japanese specialists published a study about the effect of lack of sleep on the formation of depression. Back in 2000, they interviewed 24,686 people, while assessing the duration and quality of their sleep, revealing the presence or absence of insomnia.

It turned out that the time of forced wakefulness increased the risk of developing mental disorders.  Depressed mood was most often reported by respondents sleeping less than 6 hours a day.

However, new studies conducted in 2017 showed that a combination of deprivation and deep sleep can tidy up the biological clock of a person suffering from mental problems. Experts noted that chronotherapy – as this method was called – is applicable only in cases of prolonged depression and only under the supervision of a specialist. In other cases, it may worsen the condition.

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