The brain needs sleep to function properly. During each stage of sleep, including REM and non-REM sleep, the level of brain activity changes, and more and more research suggests that sleep improves most types of cognitive performance.
People's attention and concentration abilities deteriorate when they don't get adequate sleep. Their reaction time increases, they become inattentive, and they are less responsive to environmental signals. This implies they are unable to process new information or respond to potentially harmful circumstances. If you're driving a car, this is extremely concerning.
Lack of sleep has been linked to a number of health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even premature mortality. All of these have high potential to co-occur with mental illness.
What happens to the brain while you're sleeping?
A person passes through four to six sleep cycles during a typical night's sleep, each lasting 70 to 120 minutes. During these cycles, the brain and body go through unique changes that correlate to different phases of sleep.
Although brain activity decreases during NREM phases, some kinds of brain waves continue to pulse. This brain wave pattern is particularly noticeable during stage 3 NREM sleep, commonly known as slow-wave sleep or deep sleep.
REM sleep, on the other hand, is characterized by a significant increase in brain activity. The brain's activity during REM sleep is identical to that of when you're awake in many respects. REM sleep is recognized for more vivid and involved dreaming, which comes as no surprise.
What are the effects of poor sleeping habits on the brain?
The prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is in charge of problem solving, thinking, organizing, planning, and other higher cognitive tasks, is especially affected by having inadequate sleep.
The recycling rate of a human brain is estimated to be roughly 16 hours. The brain begins to fail after 16 hours. According to studies, merely 17 hours of awake time might impair cognitive capacities, especially response time. And going 17–19 hours without sleep can cause cognitive impairment comparable to that of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent, which is the legal limit for driving in many nations.
Sleep deprivation has frightening long-term consequences. For example, if your sleep need is eight hours, after ten nights of only seven hours of sleep, your brain will be just as affected as if you had been awake for the entire 24 hours. And, just as an inebriated person is unlikely to realize how impaired their faculties are, carrying an enormous sleep debt begins to feel normal.
Your brain adapts to working at a lower level after just a few days of sleeping less than your genetically set requirement, which is one of the reasons why sleep debt—the quantity of sleep you lost over the previous 14 days compared to the hours your body requires—is so dangerous. You think you're doing OK subjectively, but objectively, you're losing ground on practically every measure that matters.
Is the impact of a lack of sleep on one's ability to think the same for everyone?
Poor sleep has different effects on different people. Research has found a link between not getting enough sleep and cognitive decline in some people, and this may be partly inherited.
According to research, adults are better at overcoming the consequences of sleep deprivation than younger ones. Because of the continuous brain growth that occurs during adolescence, teens are regarded to be more vulnerable to the negative consequences of insufficient sleep on thinking, decision-making, and academic performance.
How can we improve our focus?
The good news is that getting more sleep and improving your focus are both possible. You can truly make up for missed sleep and regain clarity and attention. Within a week, you should be free of brain fog. But get started right away; the longer you go without sleep, the harder it will be to catch up.
1. Reduce your sleep debt
As previously said, when you don't get enough sleep, you accumulate sleep debt. It is suggested that you keep your sleep debt under five hours to have the energy you need each day. It will be more difficult to sustain attention and cognitive function if you have a higher sleep debt. It might even detract from your enthusiastic highs. If you're sleep deprived, your attention and performance throughout your morning and evening peaks will be drastically reduced compared to when you're well-rested. You should practice proper sleep hygiene every day and night to keep your sleep debt low.
2. Organize your day according to your circadian rhythm
Rather than fighting your circadian rhythm's ups and downs, you may surf the waves by planning your day around your energy peaks and valleys. Because you'll feel the most capable and clear-headed during your peaks, this is the best time to tackle difficult or critical activities. You can do some of the same chores during your evening peak as you would during your morning peak. But remember to conserve part of your peak energy for your relationships, hobbies, exercise, and other activities. This will assist you in striking a good work-life balance.
3. Supplement with naps
If you can't get enough sleep at night and are tired during the day, napping may be beneficial. Take one brief midday nap before 5p; naps later in the day might interfere with subsequent sleep. If you have trouble sleeping at night, avoid resting throughout the day to improve your sleep drive at bedtime.
4. Watch your diet
Avoid meals that cause heartburn and don't eat late at night; laying down after eating might cause sleep disruption. Caffeine-containing foods and beverages (chocolate, tea, coffee, soda) should be avoided at least six hours before bed. At least two hours before bedtime, alcohol should be avoided. It may make you tired at first, but it works as a stimulant for many hours later, interrupting sleep. Also, to avoid trips to the toilet in the middle of the night, don't drink too much water before bedtime.
Solstice can help
Sleep is essential for brain function and well-being; we can't focus properly without it. Putting sleep first and getting the most out of your circadian rhythm can help you have more energy and focus during the day.
If you're having trouble doing well at school, work, or other activities as a result of bad sleeping patterns, Solstice Pacific can help. We provide our customers with a number of therapy alternatives to help them reclaim their good sleep hygiene.