You may think you are getting enough sleep, but according to the National Institute of Health, 50-70 million Americans are experiencing some form of sleep disorder that could significantly diminish their health and safety, slow their reflexes and disrupt their ability to focus.
These sleep problems could come in the form of sleep apnea, where they nod off without warning; too little sleep; snoring; or disruptions of sleep throughout the night. These problems could result in more accidents, additional medical problems, more use of medications, problems with memory, and lack of coordination and reaction time.
How many hours of sleep do you actually get? The recommended amount is between 7-8 hours a night – no less and no more. This is the amount recommended by experts for optimal memory, learning, and our ability to focus and perform cognitive functions.
Just as our bodies are not able to continue without rest, your brain has to do the same thing. There may be people you know who say they only need 4-5 hours of sleep a night. They are just kidding themselves, or they are superhuman, and according to Dr. Hans P.A. Van Dongen, PhD researcher and assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, The most worrisome part of this is these people don’t realize how sleep-deprived they really are. The brain will not function at its optimum level without getting a break.
When people are put through chronic sleep deprivation, there is an initial response where they say, ‘OK, this is not optimal but I’ll manage.’ But after a few days of this, things are much worse than they realize, says Van Dongen. They have slower reaction time, weakened memory, and other thinking impairments.
The good news is, however, that you can actually catch up on your sleep and reinvigorate with a few days of good sleep with no distractions and interruptions.
New research, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, explains how scientists were able to map out how different parts of the brain to react to different sleep patters – waking, sleeping, during periods of sleep deprivation. They were able to chart the behavior of over 200 genes activity in seven separate areas of the brain by identifying which genes were turned of, or turned on, and where they were in the brain. They came to the conclusion that sleep deprivation affects the frontal lobe a the area of the brain thought to control our higher cognitive reasoning, emotions, memorizing and retention of memory.
The study found a distinguished and unusual set of genes associated with sleep deprivation, including those related to stress response, irritability, how to remember anything, concentration and coordination. These symptoms were found to be most common among health care workers, military personnel and people who worked long hours and swing shifts. In other words, those deprived of the proper amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation is also linked to the development of depression, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Since many diseases can have their core in poor sleeping habits, this research can help in the ability of neuroscientists to track brain activity and help them to treat inadequate sleep and overcoming their effects, including the ability to improve your memory.
About the Author:
Ron White is a memory expert
Memory Zine – Study of Sleep Deprivation Identifies Genes That Hinder Memory: http://memoryzine.com/2011/01/13/study-of-sleep-deprivation-identifies-genes-that-hinder-memory/
WebMd: Sleep Deprivation Leads To Trouble Fast – http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20030314/sleep-deprivation-leads-to-trouble-fast
WebMd: The Toll of Sleep Loss in America – http://www.webmd.com/depression/depression-his-and-hers-6/sleep-loss
National Sleep Foundation – http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/sleep-studies