We’ve all had to manage on sleep deprivation before. Sometimes you lie there for hours unable to drift off and before you know it it’s time to get up again.
It’s absolutely no fun because you’re always wrecked the next day. But what does sleep deprivation do to our brains?
Studies have been done that show sleep deprivation causes reduced brain activity across our whole brains, especially in the Thalamus and Prefrontal Cortex. Now between you and me, I have no idea what these areas do, so let’s take a look at what happens when your brain stops responding as well as it should.
It inhibits Your Focus
The Thalamus is the gateway between your senses (specifically your eyes) and the brain. It’s what helps you process the world around you so when it can’t function properly, you lose the ability to concentrate on a specific task. What your eyes are taking in isn’t relaying through to the brain to be processed so they wander off looking for more stimulating sources.
It Ruins Your Coordination
Again because the thalamus is responsible for all your senses, it also controls your spatial awareness. I know when I’m tired I have the worst habit of walking into things, door frames, tables, tripping on chair legs. So I was pleased to discover I’m not alone and it’s because your senses can’t work fast enough to take in the world around you so you start to crash.
Slows Down Your Decision Making
Now the Prefrontal Cortex is responsible for lots of different things in the brain, but one of its main roles is decision making. With sleep deprivation, making decisions becomes all the harder so you might find you’re waiting to order your Starbucks and simply can’t fathom what you actually want. Blame your bad sleep!
Worst of All, You Lose Your Ability to Be You
But I think worst of all is that the prefrontal cortex is actually responsible for personality expression. So the very traits that define you as a person are all controlled through the prefrontal cortex. When it starts responding slower, you actually start acting like a different person.
So when people say “you don’t seem yourself today” after you’ve had a long sleepless night, they are very much correct. Because your brain has lost some its ability to tell you how to be you, all your nuanced expressions, phrases, body language are all dulled down. Scary.
How to Make Sure You Get the Best Night’s Sleep
Luckily, there is lots of damage control you can do to make sure you’re always getting the best sleep.
Get a Good Mattress
Old mattresses are the bane of a good night’s sleep. They’re uncomfortable and tend to be saggy in the middle so you toss and turn all night unable to fall asleep. On top of that a saggy mattress can lead to all sorts of aches and pains, and waking up with morning back pain certainly isn’t going to help anything. That’s why buying a quality mattress is important, it’ll make sure you have the right environment to sleep soundly through the night.
If You Find Yourself with a Busy Mind, Start a Journal
Journaling is one of the absolute best ways to clear your mind after a busy day. Any stresses that might be lingering can be poured out through your pen and onto the page. It might be a to-do list for tomorrow or the lyrics of a song that keeps floating around, it doesn’t matter. Once it’s on paper, it’s out of your head.
Drink Water Before Bed
Water is the key to sleep because it helps your body cool down. Your body naturally cools down as you fall asleep, which is why being too hot keeps you awake. Drinking enough water ensures your body’s natural cooling system can work properly so you can cool down and fall asleep.
What Can Be Done If You Still Have a Bad Sleep?
Nobody’s perfect and a bad night’s sleep happens to everyone now and again, so is there anything you can do to help kick your brain back into gear?
Unfortunately, there’s not much other than catch up on sleep. It’s the best medicine you can get. Other than that just take it easy on yourself and don’t get stressed about it or you’ll ruin your next night of sleep too!
So take every measure you can to get a good night’s sleep because your brain simply can’t function when you don’t. But don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a bad sleep and then have a bad day. It’s just what happens to the brain on sleep deprivation and is out of your control.