When someone wakes up from a poor night’s sleep, it’s normal to feel a little irritable, grumpy, or apathetic. But when someone wakes up from their 50th poor night’s sleep in a row, new research reveals that the effects on the brain go way beyond irritability and drowsiness.
Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders are extremely common, with more than 60 million Americans suffering from these conditions.
Sleep difficulties have already been linked with depression and anxiety, suggesting that depression was one possible cause of insomnia and other sleep disorders.
However, research by Alice Gregory, a psychology professor at the University of London, says that the opposite may actually be true as well. Lack of sleep and trouble sleeping may actually cause someone to become depressed. Unfortunately, that means lack of sleep and depression could cause a feedback loop, causing each problem to worsen dramatically.
A part of the brain called the amygdala is believed to be responsible for controlling our emotions. When we go to sleep, the brain’s activity is reduced, allowing it to reset. When not enough sleep is received, the brain isn’t 100% recharged.
During a study, participants were shown emotionally negative images. Professor Gregory’s research shows that participants who were deprived of sleep for 35 hours had a greater amygdala response to the pictures than the participants who were not sleep deprived.
The research findings also showed that parts of the brain that regulate the amygdala had decreased activity when the participant lacked sleep. This could suggest that those who do not receive sufficient sleep are less able to control their emotions.
Inability to control emotions is, in fact, a symptom of depression in all ages.
Other studies show that people who suffer from depression have high levels of inflammation in their bodies. Coincidentally, disturbed sleep also happens to cause inflammation. Sufficient sleep is said to reduce inflammation by allowing the body to heal itself, so this may be another link between both conditions.
While people today are busier than ever with long hours at work, families, social lives, and personal time, it’s important to prioritize sleep in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. While this research has not been directly conclusive, there is no question that sleep is beneficial to the body and mood.