Advertising
Advertising

The Secret Benefits of Sleep Deprivation You Didn’t Know About

The Secret Benefits of Sleep Deprivation You Didn’t Know About

Sleep deprivation is pretty common these days—it’s a major attribute of achievement-oriented societies—but why would anyone have a love-hate relationship with it? Usually, one would say, sleep deprivation and all the accompanying symptoms are the definition of a love-hate relationship, to the core.

Let me tell you something: you can use sleep deprivation for your own benefit. We’ll get into how this works, but first, let’s discuss the phenomenon of sleep, sleep deprivation and its symptoms, and finally design a “how to” experiment about sleep deprivation (commonly known as self-torture), and ask ourselves, more importantly, why?

Sleep: Functionality

“Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, […] and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles.” (Macmillan, 1981). This is a short and clear explanation:

  • sleep is characterized by sleep stages/cycles (five cycles, differing in depth)
  • the deeper your sleep, the better the quality of sleep
  • More Sleep ≠ Better (healthy avg. 7.5-9 hours)

The functions of sleep are very multifaceted and majorly unexplored, but these (validated, and commonly accepted) aspects interest us the most right now. Sleep has a major impact:

Advertising

  • on our memory and the ability to re-organize thoughts, experiences and to learn new things (neuroplasticity)
  • on the regulation of necessary hormones and the ability of our body to regenerate physically

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is the lack of sleep: either it was caused by a very superficial and short sleep (over a period of some days) or by no sleep at all. The functionality and benefits of sleep are limited as a result (see above), and we might face some serious problems, if we stay sleep-deprived for a prolonged period of time.

The effects of sleep deprivation are various; some occur instantly after acute deprivation, other occur only after chronic deprivation:

Sleep deprivation

    (by Mikael Häggström, Wikimedia Commons, 2009)

    Advertising

    After acute deprivation:

    • irritability
    • cognitive impairment
    • memory lapses
    • restricted judgement
    • severe yawning
    • increased heart-rate variability, increased reaction time and decreased accuracy
    • temporary emotional instability

    After chronic deprivation:

    The effects of chronic deprivation boil down to the development of various diseases, such as:

    • Diabetes
    • heart disease
    • growth suppression
    • restricted immune system functionality
    • weight gain/loss
    • depression

    Due to the diversity of acute deficits, sleep deprivation has been used as a successful interrogation technique. In fact, the U.S. military authorised sleep deprivation as an interrogation method (Leave no Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality, August 2007).

    But hey, why would there be a love-hate relationship here? What’s the benefit for us?!

    How To (..and the benefits of sleep deprivation?!)

    The effects of sleep deprivation on the human body were observed and analyzed in the 70s: the methodological monitoring involved blood analysis, but also neuropsychological instruments to capture the brain activity during sleep-deprivation and during recovery sleep after deprivation.

    Advertising

    The results: “There’s evidence of antidepressive effect after sleep deprivation.”As a matter of fact, subjects experienced a 37.2 % improvement in their mood!

    The background of these results are diverse—the reasons behind the remarkable mood improvement are, amongst others:

    • biochemical investigations proved an increase of different hormones, including serotonin and noradrenaline, which are also known to function as a happiness hormone (serotonin) and stimulating hormone (noradrenaline)
    • improved sleep continuity and depth in the night after sleep deprivation

    These mentioned effects take action in depressed but also non-depressed people, meaning that you can stay awake for a night, begin the next day as you usually do and try to keep yourself awake (that’s not very easy!) and go to bed quite early → sleep like a baby → wake up the next morning with more power and energy.

    By depriving yourself of sleep, you set your biological clock to zero— in case your time management is messed up and running out of fuel, this can very helpful (a love-hate relationship). You can call sleep deprivation sleep hacking: at first we abstain from sleep, and later (during the recovery night) we slip into a very deep state of sleep, which will regenerate us.

    Advertising

    Admittedly, sleep deprivation amongst healthy people is often met with skepticism, mainly because healthy subjects can regulate their sleep pattern in other ways (through nutrition, sleep hygiene and sleep rituals). On the other hand, sleep deprivation is free of any serious side effects and can serve as a quick fix. Here’s a short how-to:

    • Perform your sleep deprivation “experiment” on the weekend (working in a sleep deprived state can be difficult)
    • Keep yourself awake during your sleep deprivation night (and the following day) with the help of tea or coffee, but please don’t overdo it
    • Go to bed early on your sleep-deprived day, and enjoy your deep recovery night (7.5 – 9 hours)
    • Wake up powerful and energized, feeling like a million dollars

    After your sleep deprivation experiment you should take care of a well-balanced diet and good sleeping habits—do not regress to old, negative tendencies. Sleep deprivation for a night can be applied easily, is highly effective and free of serious side effects. Have you already tried it? Share your experience with us!

    More by this author

    The Secret Benefits of Sleep Deprivation You Didn’t Know About 4 Benefits of Apples That You Might Not Know About

    Trending in Health

    1 27 Healthy Pressure Cooker Meals (with Easy Recipes) 2 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health 3 What’s the Best Tea for Sleep? 7 Recipes to Try Tonight 4 The Best Foods to Eat and Avoid When You Have Diarrhea 5 25 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas for Work

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on November 11, 2019

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

    Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

    To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

    Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

    1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

    Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

    Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

    To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

    Advertising

    2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

    Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

    If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

    Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

    3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

    Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

    Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

    4. Feed Your Brain

    Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

    Advertising

    This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

    Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

    Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

    5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

    According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

    Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

    Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

    Advertising

    6. Write it Down

    If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

    It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

    You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

    7. Listen to Music

    Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

    8. Visual Concepts

    In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

    Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

    Advertising

    Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

    9. Teach Someone Else

    Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

    Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

    10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

    Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

    So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

    Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

    More About Boosting Memory

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Read Next