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How a Bad Night’s Sleep Changes Your Brain

3 min read

fatigued senior woman

If you’re among the one-third of Americans who don’t get enough sleep, you’re already familiar with some of the most common side effects —  for instance, grogginess, grouchiness and feeling like you didn’t sleep at all. You may be surprised to learn that there’s one common denominator among many of these symptoms. Your brain experiences specific negative effects of poor sleep that, in turn, impact your whole body.

How Poor Sleep Affects Your Brain

  • It can increase your risk for depression and anxiety. Depression and poor sleep go hand-in-hand, meaning that depression can set you up for poor sleep, and vice-versa. Research suggests that major depression will affect 15% to 20% of people diagnosed with insomnia.
  • You may not handle stress as well. Many people report that their stress level increases when they don’t get enough sleep. Similarly, people who report having lower stress levels tend to get more sleep overall.
  • It can cause you to become irritable or moody. We’ve all experienced the link between lack of sleep and a worsened mood. The relationship is so strong, in fact, that chronic poor sleep can actually lead to the development of mood disorders.
  • Your reaction time can become slow. Lack of sleep can affect simple, everyday tasks but can also increase your risk for experiencing more serious injuries. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, fatigue causes one out of every 100,000 car accidents and more than 1,500 crash-related deaths each year.
  • You may feel unable to focus or concentrate. Brain fog is a commonly reported symptom of a poor night’s sleep. Inadequate rest actually disrupts the communication between your brain cells, leading to the mental lapses we experience as brain fog.
  • It can cause toxins to accumulate in your brain. Research shows that sleep actually helps your body get rid of neurotoxins that naturally build up while you’re awake. This accumulation may even lead to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Your memory can suffer. Studies show that sleep helps organize and solidify memories. When you’re lacking sleep, you may have a harder time recalling or holding onto memories in both the short and long term.

Tips For Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for your brain and your overall health. Studies suggest that most adults need seven and nine hours of sleep for optimal physical and mental function.

Following are some tips to help you sleep better: 

  • Treat any underlying physiological reasons that may be keeping you awake during the night. One of the most common conditions is restless leg syndrome (RLS), which can be diagnosed by your physician. A great treatment option is Calm Legs, a natural supplement clinically proven to reduce symptoms of RLS. Calm Legs contains carefully chosen, naturally derived ingredients including valerian root, vitamins C, E and B12, folic acid, iron and magnesium — all of which are effective in improving sleep disrupted by RLS.
  • Create a sleep routine. This might include going to bed and waking up around the same time every day.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon can help reset your sleep cycle. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime as this can keep you awake longer.
  • Avoid nicotine and caffeine, especially later in the day.
  • Intentionally wind down at night. Do things that are relaxing in preparation for bedtime. Taking a bath, reading a book, walking around the block or journaling can help calm the mind. Avoid technologies that emit blue light and keep your brain awake, like watching television or looking at your cell phone or laptop.
  • Make your bedroom a sleep-friendly space. Some ideas include soft, comfortable bed, light bedding and a darkened environment.

Adequate sleep is essential for your brain to function at its best. If you’re experiencing any of the unpleasant side effects of poor sleep, consider trying some of the recommendations above. You may be surprised at just how much a small shift in your sleep pattern improves your life.