Sleep deprivation: It's bad for your brain

Not enough sleep makes you grumpy, gain weight and forget things. Need we say more?

Jordan Heuvelmans 2 minute read February 26, 2020

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We all skimp on our sleep once in a awhile. But repeated sleep deprivation has serious health risks.

Miss an hour

Lose one hour of sleep on one single night is fine. “For someone who is well rested, missing an hour of sleep would have relatively minimal consequences,” Alex Dimitriu, MD, the founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine told Men’s Health. You may feel groggy, and have some daytime sleepiness and yawning.

Miss two hours

You miss two hours of sleep and you are likely feeling more sleepy throughout the day. Your hand and eye coordination will be off, and your reflexes may not be as sharp. You could also get headaches.

“Sleep deprivation can elevate your blood pressure because you don’t allow your heart and blood vessels to spend enough time in the ‘rest mode’ at night,” Alex Savy, a Sleep Science Coach certified by the Spencer Institute told Men’s Health.

Miss three hours

Take everything that happens when you miss two hours of sleep, and ramp it up a bit. According to Seixas, you’ll feel run down and unable to properly function. It can also put you at a higher risk for a heart attack, as sleep deprivation can make you gain weight — adding stress to your body’s other systems.

Dimitriu says that when people lose significant amounts of sleep, “people often crave carbohydrates more. Sleep-deprived lab mice always tend to gain weight.” Plus, it’ll make you much more grumpy. It’ll reduce your impulse control, and will deplete your creativity. Without a proper sleep, it can make it difficult to concentrate or complete even the simplest tasks.

Miss four or more

Here’s where things get intense. According to Men’s Health, sleep deprivation increases a hormone called ghrelin, which triggers hunger and cravings. “If you cut half of your recommended sleep per night, you can expect sugar cravings and the urge to eat something deep-fried or baked,” says Savy.

But there’s way more happening here than bad food choices.

Your memory will be shot, and it will be difficult to learn new things. And then it gets scary. Savy says that a protein called Tau (which is elevated in people with Alzheimer’s disease) starts to build up.

Moral of the story? Get your sleep. If not for the sake of maintaining a healthy weight, for your brain.