The amount of sleep each person needs varies depending on age, profession, nutrition, stress, lifestyle, and other factors, but one thing's for sure: not getting enough sleep is bad news for your brain.
Sleep isn't the most exciting part of our lives, and as a result, it's often the first sacrifice we make while deciding our daily and nightly schedules.
Over time, we may rack up a 'sleep debt,' a toll that must be paid in different ways until we are able to catch up on our 'Z's,' rest and recover.
Now, new research is helping scientists understand in greater detail the toll sleep deprivation takes on the human mind, and it should be a wake-up call for anyone who doesn't value the irreplaceable benefits of deep, healthy sleep on a nightly basis.
Sleep Deprivation Causes an Alarming Lapse in Subjective Judgment
The study was undertaken by authors Zachary Zamore and Sigrid C. Veasey of the Chronobiology and Sleep Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.
One of the duo's key findings had to do with sleep debt.
Zamore and Veasey found that as we accumulate sleep debt, we lose the subjective ability to judge how lack of sleep affects us.
In other words, we may not be running anywhere close to peak efficiency and remain oblivious to our loss of performance over time because of our sleep deprivation.
The cycle continues until sleep frequency and quality improve.
For some people, the cycle is never broken and instead becomes like a pit of quicksand they are never quite able to escape.
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Lack of Sleep Destroys Alertness and Subjective Memory
Subjective tests administered by the researchers found that people in a state of sleep debt suffer from "deficits...in vigilance and episodic memory."
If you've ever felt sleep deprived after a long night and an early wake-up call, this is something you have probably experienced before.
Lack of sleep causes a precipitous drop in overall alertness, vigilance, and working memory.
Without access to our subconscious memory, our brain forfeits the ability to make sense of the day's events and gain clarity that would otherwise lead to creativity, intuition, and more.
We find ourselves running on autopilot, a watered-down, half-hearted, and half-minded version of ourselves who cannot perform at our best throughout each day.
The researchers noticed this effect remained prominent even after "2-3 nights of recovery sleep."
This research strongly suggests that sleep is important not just in the short term but over the long term.
If you're not getting enough sleep on a daily basis, it will catch up with you, and as the researchers noted, you might be the last one in your family or social circle to notice.
Sleep Problems May Lead to Neurodegenerative Disorders
Finally, the researchers also uncovered data suggesting that persistent sleep loss can lead to a "heightened susceptibility to neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease...and Parkinson's disease (PD)."
This effect was observed even in cases where people attempted to catch up on their sleep.
"Sleep disruption is an inevitable occurrence in modern societies," the authors wrote in the study's conclusion while calling for additional research to determine how sleep deprivation occurs.
How Much Sleep Each Person Needs According to Age
The amount of sleep each person needs varies by age, according to the Sleep Foundation, and appears based on the "magic number" we've all heard about before: eight hours as a baseline.
Teenagers generally need between eight and ten hours of sleep, according to the Foundation, while adults of ages ranging from age 18 to 64 all need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Adults ages 65 and up should get between seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
The Foundation also notes that the quality of your sleep matters along with the quantity and recommends improving your sleep hygiene to improve your sleep quality.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
- Sticking to a similar sleep schedule each night, especially on weekdays
- Creating a relaxing pre-bed routine to help your mind wind down before sleep
- Choosing a high-quality mattress that is supportive and comfortable, including pillows and bedding
- Minimizing sound and light distractions while optimizing bedroom temperature. Between 60 and 67 degrees, Fahrenheit is optimal.
- Disconnecting from mobile devices such as phones and computers before bed. Shutting off wi-fi can also help.
- Limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
- Keeping a sleep diary or sleep log to track your habits. This can help you diagnose sleep patterns and needs so you can make adjustments over time.
- Consuming nutrients that are proven to help your body to achieve a deep and relaxing night's sleep. Some of the top nutrients include tryptophan, magnesium, cherry juice, and others.
You may also want to consider investing in vitamin and mineral supplements to optimize sleep.
The REM Sleep blend from Healthycell is formulated with 2,384 milligrams of power sleep nutrients in one gel pack. All ingredients are drug-free and non-habit forming, allowing for consistent, improved sleep with each additional night.
This REM Sleep blend supports all four stages of human sleep, expertly formulated by doctors and nutritionists to achieve sleep breakthroughs with every night your head hits the pillow.