Six Ways Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Every March, Brain Awareness Week (BAW) aims to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. In association of Brain Awareness Week, we're going to explore six ways insomnia and sleep deprivation can affect your brain health.

You will think more slowly

Insomnia slows down your entire thinking process. Not only does this affect your concentration, but your hand-eye coordination may also decrease over time and you may experience impaired judgment. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that slow thinking is a factor in one out of every five automobile crashes. According to the administration, this number may be underrepresentative of the actual amount.

Your memory will suffer

The brain has been said to rewire itself for maximum efficiency while you are asleep. If you are not giving your brain consistent, quality sleep, the neurons that help store your memories won’t work as effectively. Early studies also suggest that sleeping pills can interfere with the brain's ability to consolidate memories during sleep.

You will find it hard to learn

If you are in school, on the job in a new position, or simply facing a new situation in life, you will have more trouble learning if you suffer from insomnia. Sleep not only keeps the mind thinking clearly; it improves memory, insight and learning. It also helps reduce bad decisions and impulsiveness.

You may ever become hyperactive

Add some research contrary to popular belief, a lack of sleep does not only cause drowsiness. Insomnia also causes hyperactivity as the body releases bursts of energy to try to stay awake. The body is basically trying to give itself adrenaline with self-made energy drinks - which has the same effect as drinking too many actual energy drinks!

You can become painful to be around

As if it isn't painful enough being around a hyperactive person with no judgment, your brain sends signals to your body to behave angrily at all stimuli. Furthermore, one study found that losing 4 hours of sleep or not getting REM sleep can lead to increased pain sensitivity the following day.

Sleep deprivation can lead to depression

People who suffer from insomnia are five times more likely than those without the condition to develop signals of depression. This works the opposite way as well - many people who are first diagnosed with depression are also found to get less than 6 hours of sleep each night. Regardless of which comes first, most medical experts agree there is a definitive link between the two conditions.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.