Have you found yourself with any of the following symptoms:

  • yawning.
  • moodiness.
  • fatigue.
  • irritability.
  • depressed mood.
  • difficulty learning new concepts.
  • forgetfulness.
  • inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head.

This might be due to a lack of sleep. To make matters worse, in a small study, losing just one night of sleep led to an increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease. The results suggest that sleep deprivation may increase the risk of beta-amyloid build-up.

Beta-amyloid, as you remember, is a metabolic waste product that’s found in the fluid between brain cells (neurons). Studies suggest that sleep plays a role in clearing beta-amyloid out of the brain. “This research provides new insight about the potentially harmful effects of a lack of sleep on the brain and has implications for better characterizing the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. George F. Koob, director of NIAAA. For an excellent TED Talk about this subject, go here

Another issue about our sleep is regarding deep sleep. We may be getting the 7-9 hours of sleep each night but the quality of sleep we are getting is important. Deep sleep, for example, is the stage of sleep you need to feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Unlike rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, deep sleep is when your body and brain waves slow down.

So what are the benefits of deep sleep? First of all our glucose metabolism increases during deep sleep, supporting short-term and long-term memory and overall learning. Also, important hormones, like our human growth hormones, lead to growth and development of the body.

So what happens when we are deprived of this deep sleep? It is responsible for helping process the information we encounter each day and without enough, the brain can’t convert this information to our memory. It is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Suggestions to help us achieve a better night’s rest (including getting more deep sleep) can be found here, presented by the National Sleep Foundation.

A good night’s sleep is all part of having a healthy life. Here’s to a better night’s sleep for all of us!

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