5 Ways Sleep Affects the Brain

Ways Sleep Affects the Brain

You’ve probably heard the old expression, ‘woke up on the wrong side of the bed’ before. But, have you ever considered the science behind it?

Sleep actually affects the brain in a series of ways and a bad night’s rest actually can leave you in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Although your mood is a huge aspect of how sleep affects the brain, below we’ve compiled five on the most common ways sleep can help your mind and improve your daily life.

  1. Helps Improve Memory

Have you ever had a bad night’s rest and then woken up in a bit of a daze? Maybe you forgot your keys or didn’t wear your jacket as you ran out the door. No matter how many careless little mistakes you made, you know that isn’t the kind of thing a focused ‘you’ would do.

Well, you’re right. A focused version of yourself would certainly remember their keys and jacket—so why did you forget them? The answer is simple: the bad night’s rest.

According to Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley sleep researcher, when we are young, we have deep sleep that helps the brain store and retain new facts and information. But as we get older, the quality of our sleep deteriorates and prevents those memories from being saved by the brain at night.

Similarly, Walker discovered that bad sleep actually led to brain deterioration and, later in life, signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

With this said, getting an inadequate amount of sleep has the potential to significantly affect your memory and overall brain function significantly both in the short-term and long-term.

  1. Encourages Creativity

Highly creative people are often known for being restless among other notable traits. But, sleep can actually wake up your creativity as it promotes dreams and brain activity. The benefits can carry over into your daily routine.

For creative individuals, this could mean an increase in productivity at work and success in your daily tasks. For instance, if your profession is graphic design, an adequate amount of sleep may actually help you to create more designs that are unique and completed in a quicker time frame. Similarly, if your job is teaching students, you may develop new and creative ways to teach them their lessons that actually help them to score better on tests and get better grades in your class.

With this said, an increase in creativity from quality sleep may actually help you to make more money, see more success in your daily routine, and have more results to prove your capabilities in your creative profession.

  1. Helps aid in Depression and Anxiety

Perhaps, one of the most incredible effects sleep has on the brain is in conjunction with your actual mood and outlook on life. Sleep disorders haven’t been proven as a direct cause of depression, but lack of sleep does play a vital role in mental health. Lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can trigger or worsen depression and anxiety.

Lack of sleep can make you feel lethargic, diminish your focus and determination, eliminate your social desires, and even lead to weight gain. All of these factors can significantly affect your mental health and lead to depression and anxiety which only further insomnia. It can be a difficult cycle to escape and may require help from a licensed medical professional.

  1. Promotes Productivity and Focus

Similar to improving your memory, a good night’s rest can boost your productivity and focus. Sleep gives your brain time to ‘recharge’. Without it, the brain does not have the focus it would otherwise. Without focus during the day, you may find yourself not wanting to complete work, focusing on less important details, and looking for ways to take the ‘easy way out’ more often.

Of course, all of these characteristics are not ideal for a hardworking individual and, therefore, are reasons why you should always get sleep before a long day of work, tests, errands, or projects. When your mind is well-rested, you are sure to be more productive, have more of a drive and energy to you, and have more focus to put towards the things that matter most each and every day.

Furthermore, since productivity is so crucial to your self-confidence and mental health, this productivity is another way for you to aid your depression and anxiety and develop a brighter outlook on your personal and professional life.

  1. Improves Your Physical Health

Despite many of these elements solely pertaining to your mind, the brain does not just control your mental health and productivity but also has implications on your physical health.

Quality and adequate sleep helps strengthen your brain’s memory, focus, and productivity which can help motivate you to exercise, help regulate your metabolism, and reduce physical pain. Because your body is moving and being productive throughout the day, you are losing weight, toning muscles, staying alert, and helping your body’s system to become healthier slowly but surely.

Good sleep hygiene practices

Sleep requirements vary over the course of a lifetime, with the most hours of sleep needed in infancy and interestingly, fewest needed after the age of 65. Generally, adults should sleep between seven and nine hours a night, but individual requirements may vary.

If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep or have insomnia, consider the following good sleep hygiene practices:

  1. Limit napping to 20 minutes
  2. Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime
  3. Exercise! The daily burst of endorphins are a great way to help you fall asleep more quickly and for longer periods in time. Typically avoid 1-2 hours close to bedtime
  4. Avoid foods that might trigger indigestion right before bed.
  5. Some supplements that have been reported to help with sleep include chamomile tea, theanine, melatonin and valerian root but would discuss with your physician before using.
  6. Try to keep a regular sleep routine — this helps the body know it’s time to sleep.
  7. Keep your environment pleasant. Consider soft music or gently scented oils to transition to a better sleep mode.

As we can experience hectic daily lives, it is even more important to give our minds the rest it deserves – and get some good sleep!

Mind-Body Connection

At Regional Neurological Associates, we have a keen understanding of the mind-body connection. The way the sleep has the ability to affect the brain in various ways is just one example. That is why we combine two specialties–neurology and psychiatry–under one roof to provide you with the most unique and comprehensive care.

By embracing this connection between psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences, we are able to more accurately diagnose and treat patients in the Bronx and surrounding New York areas who are experiencing a wide variety of conditions affecting the brain. To request an appointment, call (718) 515-4347 or (914) 410-3633.