Sleep Deprivation

March 25, 2019

Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to higher levels of amyloid beta plaques in the brain

The buildup of these plaques contributes to brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid beta plaques are cleared away through sleep.

Up to two thirds of UK adults suffer from sleep disturbance. Shockingly up to a third suffer from insomnia. We understand the vital importance of sleep in maintaining healthy brain function, physical health, executive function and emotional wellbeing. The optimum amount of sleep needed varies from person to person. We recommend getting between seven to nine hours sleep each night.

Sleep is essential for supporting cognition and general health and wellbeing

Sleep deprivation has been linked with many different health issues and diseases. For example, diabetes, cancer, obesity, poor mental health and Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep is essential for supporting cognition. This term describes the higher level functions of our brain. For example, memory, language, speech and planning skills.

Sleep initiates restorative processes in our bodies

When we sleep, the growth hormone is released, enabling the occurrence of important restorative processes like muscle growth and protein synthesis. Interestingly, the most important functions of sleep likely relate to the brain. For example, it may have complex effects on the connections within the brain with wide-reaching functions like the consolidation of memories. Another important function is the maintenance of the plasticity of the brain. This is the brain’s ability to adapt and change its structure in response to a person’s experiences. It’s also possible that sleep restores brain energy as well as promoting the removal of toxins from the brain.

Sleep deprivation can affect concentration, alertness and emotional wellbeing

People who don’t get enough sleep may notice problems with their concentration, alertness and their ability to reason logically and to perform complex tasks. Sleep deprivation also has an emotional cost. Research suggests that total sleep deprivation and chronic sleep restriction (reduced hours spent sleeping each night) can cause disturbances in anxiety and depression.

Re:Cognition Health’s tips for a good night’s sleep

To maintain a healthy mind and body, it’s imperative to optimise your sleep. After all, sleep can even affect the recovery time after illness or injury, weight management and exercise performance. There are lots of tips and techniques that people employ to help induce an undisturbed night of sleep. However, the key is finding the solution that works best for you Below Dr Emer MacSweeney, Consultant Neuroradiologist, shares her tips on how to get a good night’s sleep:

Unwind before bed

Meditating, massage, listening to relaxing music or reading before bed can help unwind the mind and body, getting you ready for sleep. Experiment and establish a pre-sleep routine that works for you.

Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow

Uncomfortable mattress, pillow and bedding can affect your quality of sleep by causing you to toss and turn through the night. This could also contribute to lower back pain. The Sleep Council recommend you change your mattress every 8 years. It’s also important you check for signs of wear and tear. After all, we spend a third of our day in bed so it’s important to have a supportive mattress to support good sleep.

Have a cool bedroom temperature

Being too hot or cold can be detrimental to sleep quality and increase wakefulness. Around 20°C is thought to be the optimum sleep temperature.

Create a good sleeping environment

A dark, quiet room is optimal for helping to avoid instances of waking throughout the night. Ear plugs and black out blinds are great for minimising any disturbance caused by noise or light.

Increase blue light exposure through the day (natural light, sunshine etc)

The circadian rhythm is the natural time-keeping clock which tells your body when to wake and sleep. Sunlight, natural and bright light helps to keep the circadian rhythm healthy.

Reduce blue light exposure in the evening (electronics, smart phones, computers, devices, television etc)

Blue light in the evening can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime. As a result, it reduces the melatonin hormone which helps relax and get into a deep sleep. Mobile Apps can be used to block the blue light. Plus, there are also some glasses which also work to block out blue light.

Reduce caffeine during the day (particularly late in the day)

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can remain elevated in your blood for up to 8hours after drinking. It can seriously affect sleep quality so it’s advisable to stick to caffeine in the morning and swap to the decaffeinated variety in the afternoon.

Have a consistent sleeping and waking time each day

The circadian rhythm is set on a loop, programmed in line with sunrise and sunset. Waking and sleeping at the same time each day supports the circadian rhythm and can improve the quality of sleep.

Reduce alcohol

Alcohol can affect the production of melatonin and increase sleep disruption. Drinking alcohol before bed may help you fall into a deep sleep quickly, however, as sleep progresses you spend more time in this state of deep sleep rather than a restful REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage, which can cause fatigue the following day.

Don’t eat late in the evening

Heavy or large meals before bedtime may affect the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep.

Have a relaxing bath or shower

Sleep quality may be improved by bathing before bed. The cooling down of the body following a warm bath or shower signals that it’s night time.

Do plenty of exercise

Physical activity increases the amount of time spent in a state of deep sleep. This helps boost immune function, improves cardiovascular health, boosts the immune system and also helps reduce stress and anxiety. It’s advisable not to exercise too close to bed time as this may hinder your ability to fall asleep.

Consult with your GP

If you are still struggling to sleep, it’s advisable to see a doctor to rule out an underlying health condition or sleep disorder.