Sleep Deprivation Effects on the Brain

With the overall modernization of cultures today, lack of enough sleep has become very common in individuals, leaving various sleep deprivation effects on the brain. Due to increasing competition in every field the amount of work expected of you is doubled with half the time to complete it.

This pushes people to extend their wakefulness periods, thereby reducing the overall amount of sleep they have. In doing so, some people often believe they are training their body to adjust to the odd timings. They tend to believe that they may not need as much sleep anymore. This belief is dangerous.

Sleep is especially necessary to regenerate parts of the body, like the brain. Having sufficient sleep enables the brain to continue functioning optimally. After extended periods of wakefulness or decreased amount of sleep, the neurons begin to breakdown. This affects the functionality of the entire body as a whole. Some muscles in the body are able to regenerate when people do not sleep – as long as they get enough rest. For example, just lying awake without sleeping is quite relaxing.

Even though in such cases subconscious functions may not seem necessary while the body rests, the cerebral cortex in the brain remains alert. The neurons contained in the cerebral cortex need certain stages of sleep to regenerate. Other sleep stages seem to generate new synaptic connections and form new memories. Sleep deprivation effects on the behavior in people have been tested by researchers in relation to the activities in the different cerebral cortex sections (temporal, parietal & frontal lobes).

Temporal & Parietal Lobes

The temporal lobe (in the cerebral cortex) is related to the processing of languages during verbal learning. In fully rested people, the imagining scans in the brain are very active in this region. However, in sleep deprived people, there are no activities visible. The sleep deprivation effects of this are slurred speech and slow responses.

When people are severely sleep deprived, they may still be able to perform on learning tests to some extent. This means that other regions of the brain must be active to compensate for the lack of functioning of the temporal lobe. Great activities are seen in the parietal lobe in rested people, which are not present in the verbal learning periods.

These activities are related to better performance in research studies. Still, the performance level of sleep deprived people is poor. One possible reason for this apart from unregenerated neurons could be the fact that the parietal lobe does not usually perform these tasks, and so is not adept at carrying them out. Therefore, when the control is switched from the temporal lobe to the parietal lobe, some accuracy and speed is lost.

However, there is one interestingly surprising thing with the parietal lobe. The sleep deprivation effects on people somewhat show a better ability to retain short-term memory, as compared to well rested people. This also makes the creation of new synapses much easier, and therefore, forming new memories easily.

Frontal Lobe

This is the most fascinating part of the brain with regards to sleep deprivation. Its functions are related to creative thinking, as well as speech. The effects of sleep deprivation on people make it difficult for people to think creatively. It also becomes difficult for them to deliver good speeches and statements. The sleep deprivation effects include signs such as:

  • Stuttering
  • Slurred speech
  • Speaking in monotone voice
  • Slow speech

There are several functions associated with the frontal lobe (prefrontal cortex), such as vision, impulse, judgments, concentration etc. Recent studies show that the frontal lobe becomes most active when a person remains awake for longer periods. It regenerates in the initial stage of sleep. This makes people feel refreshed after only a short nap. The best way to further explain this is by saying that the longer the wakefulness time, the longer the brain remains in the first stage of sleep.

Implications

Sleep deprivation is sometimes the norm in people. The studies on sleep deprivation help in understanding the relationship between brain activities and the behavior in unique ways. By taking brain images that show where activities are situated, it’s possible to compare the behavior people exhibit with their brain patterns.

Different sections of the brain rest during different stages of sleep, so when the brain does not get enough resting times, it shuts down for tiny sleep periods (mini-naps). These tiny sleep periods last for a few seconds, in which delta waves are released in the brain. This in turn, impairs the stability of cognitive functions in the body.

Without sufficient sleep, the brain tends to deteriorate. This impair the ability of people to focus on different things simultaneously, which reduces the efficiency of ones actions and greatly affects the behavior.