What Lack of a Sleep Does to the Brain

You may not believe that pulling an all-nighter or getting only six hours of sleep will be that damaging to your health, but that is a serious misconception. Going one day with little or no sleep can have a detrimental impact on your cognitive abilities, and going several days or even weeks without proper rest can have a significant negative effect on your mental and physical health.

You Become Hungrier

The longer you go without sleep, the more your body’s endocrine system is thrown out of balance. One of the effects of that imbalance is that your system produces an excessive amount of a hormone called ghrelin, which is one of the peptides responsible for regulating your appetite. When your body sends your brain the message that you are in need of sustenance, even when that is not actually the case, you gain weight. One Stanford study found that after a week of poor sleep, your body weight can increase by as much as 2.2 pounds.

You Become Listless

The same study that made the discovery that deprivation can cause weight gain also showed that it can leave sufferers feeling drained of energy. This is because a sleep deprived person’s body produces diminished quantities of leptin, a hormone that regulates your energy level. Without it, your body does not process your fat stores efficiently. In the short-term, you’ll find yourself feeling fatigued. In the long-term, your risk factor for developing obesity later in life will greatly increase.

Your Cognitive Functions will Fail

If you are not getting the recommended eight hours a night of sleep on a regular basis, your cognitive functions will slowly begin to fail. When we sleep, our brain cells and neurons downshift into a lower rate of information transfer. During this period, your brain recharges so that you can call upon all of your mental faculties when we wake up again in the morning. Sleeping also gives our body a chance to clear bits of protein and plaque that slowly build over the course of the day. When we don’t sleep, our restless cells and neurons begin to die and protein builds up reaches the level where it impacts our brain’s ability to transmit information. Effectively, the longer you go without sleep, the worse your ability to understand and recall becomes.

You Become Hypersensitive

Without sleep, your body’s motor cortex and adrenal glands increase in activity in order to keep you awake and aware in spite of your body’s need to rest. This is called the flight or fight response. When we are in a potentially life-threatening situation, the fight or flight response can give us the boost we need to escape from harm. However, being locked into a chronic adrenalized state places your body under considerable strain in your body and your ability to handle normal stimuli, such as the slamming the car door, will be greatly reduced. Over time, your ability to concentrate will become compromised and you will be unable to complete basic tasks like driving a car.

If you’re struggling to get and stay asleep on a regular basis, contact us today to set up an appointment. As a sleep specialist, Dr. Shukla has the expertise to treat your condition.


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