Skipping sleep can shut down the brain

Being sleep-deprived for just one night will make your brain unstable and more prone to sudden “shutdowns.” These shutdowns are like lapses that don’t allow you to utilize the full power of your brain. The natural function of the brain is weaker and you may experience shifts between sleep and wakefulness throughout the day state researchers.

It’s as though it is both asleep and awake and they are switching between each other very rapidly,” says David Dinges from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His “sleepy brains” study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience and has gained mainstream attention.

David Dinges, a lead researcher was quoted saying, “Imagine you are sitting in a room watching a movie with the lights on. In a stable brain, the lights stay on all the time. In a sleepy brain, the lights suddenly go off.” This quote explains the findings of his research in a nutshell. When you provide your brain with adequate sleep, your brain is fully operating. When you deprive your brain of sleep, your brain can shift between functioning and shutting down (malfunctioning). We already know that depriving yourself of sleep is one of the things that kill brain cells.

What the findings of this study suggest?

The findings of this study suggests that individuals who are sleep-deprived will shift between stages of near-normal brain functioning and significant lapses in cognition throughout the day. Two key areas that sleep-deprived brains are usually not able to perform well in are: visual processing and attention skills.

David Dinges and other researchers conducted brain imaging studies on 24 adults who performed simple tasks which involved visual attention when they were well rested and compared the results to those of when they had missed 1 night’s sleep. Researchers used fMRI imaging to analyze the results, allowing them to measure and observe the amount of blood flow in the brain.

The key findings: the sleep deprived vs. the well rested

  • Sleep Deprived: The fMRI imaging showed that when individuals were sleep-deprived, there were significant lapses in key areas of the brain.
  • Well Rested: When the individuals were well rested, fMRI imaging showed no lapses in functioning in the areas that faltered in the sleep-deprived brain. The brain power of well-rested individuals remained strong and healthy.

The lead researcher also stated, “These people are not lying in bed. They are sitting up doing a task they learned and they are working very hard at doing their best.” Lapses seemed to suggest that lack of sleep impairs the brain of fully warding off the involuntary drive to sleep. Dinges also says that this study makes it clear how dangerous sleep-deprivation can be while driving on the highway – when even a split second lapse could potentially get you into a major accident!

The obvious conclusion

I think it is obvious to say that we need a goodnight’s sleep for optimal brain functioning! So do yourself a favor and get to bed at a decent time. Too much lack of caring for yourself and your sleeping patterns can cause health problems, cognitive impairments, and is unhealthy. For optimal brain power, you already know that it is good to take a nap if necessary – or set aside some time to sleep in. Get to bed earlier, do whatever you need to to fulfill your necessary sleeping requirements. Sleeping replenishes the body and revitalizes the brain. Cutting it from your routine or trying to avoid it for productivity reasons will only impair your brain functioning. So do yourself a favor… get a good-night’s sleep!