Lack of sleep and how it affects the brain

Memory

During deep sleep the brain is working hard. One of the main things the brain is doing is moving memories from short-term storage into long-term storage, allowing more short-term memory space for the next day. If you don’t get adequate deep sleep then these memories will be lost. You might think: I’ll cut back during the week and then make up for it at the weekend, but it doesn’t work like that because memories need to be consolidated within twenty four hours of being formed.

Therefore if you are revising or taking an exam you should make sure that you get a good night’s sleep. In one study, people who failed to do so did 40% worse than their contemporaries.

Rapid Eye Movement

REM sleep is the phase when you are usually paralysed, but the eye muscles are not paralysed, and that’s why it’s called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

During REM sleep one of the stress-related chemicals in the brain, noradrenalin, is switched off. It is the only time of day that this happens. It allows us to remain calm while our brains reprocess all the experiences of the day helping us come to terms with particularly emotional events.

We get more REM sleep in the last half of the night, which means that if you are woken unexpectedly the brain may not have dealt with all your emotions which could leave you stressed and anxious. Drinking alcohol late at night is not a good idea as it reduces your REM sleep while it’s being processed in your body.

Lack of sleep

In an experiment at the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre, the volunteers were randomly allocated to two groups. One group was asked to sleep for six-and-a-half hours a night, the other got seven-and-a-half hours. After a week the researchers took blood tests and the volunteers were asked to switch sleep patterns. The group that had been sleeping six-and-a-half hours got an extra hour, the other group slept an hour less.

Computer tests revealed that most of them struggled with mental agility tasks when they had less sleep, but the most interesting results came from the blood tests.

What they discovered is that when the volunteers cut back from 7 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours’ sleep a night, genes that are associated with processes like inflammation, immune response and response to stress became more active. The team also saw increases in the activity of genes associated with diabetes and risk of cancer. The reverse happened when the volunteers added an hour of sleep.

Thoughts

Training hard requires adequate rest. Sleep (along with nutrition) is a major part of the post-workout recovery process. Getting enough sleep is vital, not only physiologically but psychologically as well, therefore it’s important to get a good balance between training hard and recovery. Power naps, weekend lie-ins and early nights can all help to make you fitter, healthier, happier and perform better.

Sources

How much can an extra hour’s sleep change you?

Dan Sroda
Personal Trainer at Reach Personal Training
Dan Sroda is a Personal Trainer based in Birstall, serving Leeds and Bradford.


As the owner and lead trainer at Reach Personal Training, I am responsible for the philosophy of the business and overseeing client programmes.

My mission is for Reach Personal Training to be synonymous with a long-term, real-life approach to health and fitness. We help our clients to integrate health and fitness into their busy lives. We don't do fads. We don't do crash diets. We do "Fitness For Life".

I have a family. I’ve always worked (and not always in the fitness industry). I have housework and shopping to do. I have a REAL life. So I know what it takes to balance a real life with a sustainable approach to health and fitness.

If I can do it then anyone else can too. All you need is the desire to make eating healthily and keeping fit a priority in your life. An hour a day, thirty minutes a day, even fifteen minutes a day of exercise, supported with a healthy diet based on whole foods, is all it takes to make steady long-term progress towards looking and feeling fantastic.

I have a few simple values upon which I have built Reach Personal Training. Only personal trainers who share these values will be part of our team.

- Friendliness. Just be a genuinely nice person, it's dead simple and it's the best way to live. Smile as much as possible and try to see the best in every situation.

- No fads. No pseudoscience. My background in academia makes me question everything. There is so much nonsense in the fitness industry, mainly because some people are in it to make money so they'll believe anything and questioning it will mean they can't believe in the product. We are different. We do what works. We use science to create our programmes and we never put profit over effectiveness. You will NEVER find Herbalife or Forever Living in our studio!

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