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Smart Sleeping: How Sleep Powers Your Brain

Feeling less sharp after missing sleep is not all in your head… well, actually it is.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep is a huge contributor to lessened brain power and even declining brain size. During REM sleep, the brain becomes energized to the point that dreams occur. This stage of sleep is vital to rejuvenating the brain and repairing brain cells. Although it is recommended that individuals get a solid eight hours of sleep, naps are also beneficial to strengthening the brain and remaining alert during waking hours.

Failing to get enough sleep can be detrimental to your health and brain processes. It is even thought that sleep disorders contributing to lack of adequate sleep can result in Alzheimer’s and dementia, and, in the short term, makes it much more difficult to learn and retain new information. Although many people are aware of the damage to the body and mind that results from lack of sleep, sleep deprivation continues to be an issue, especially among students and young professionals.

Lack of sleep is horrible for your entire body so it is vital to give your mind and body the rest it needs. Sleep is also an important contributor to parts of the brain that influence growth, social interaction and emotional reactions. While you may only view sleep as a time to rest your brain, you are actually exercising it by allowing it to act in a way and produce chemicals it doesn’t have the ability to while the body is awake. Not only does lack of sleep hurt your brain, your brain cannot produce sleep inducing chemicals if you don’t go through the entire sleep cycle that occurs upon a full night’s sleep.

Give your brain a break and make sure to get adequate sleep to ensure a happy, healthy noggin.

 

“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.” : National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 25 July 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm&gt;.

Haiken, Melanie. “Lack Of Sleep Kills Brain Cells, New Study Shows.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/03/20/lack-of-sleep-kills-brain-cells-new-study-suggests/&gt;.

Willingham, Val. “Lack of Sleep May Shrink Your Brain.” CNN. Cable News Network, 1 Jan. 1970. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/04/health/no-sleep-brain-size/&gt;.

Nightmares and Nightmare Disorder

Few things are quite as disturbing as waking up startled, not completely sure where you are or what is happening. If you are all too familiar with this feeling, you may be one of the adults who still experience nightmares on a regular basis.

Nightmares typically occur during REM sleep, or the deepest stage of sleep. This is the same stage in which dreams occur, but nightmares can be much more startling and even cause you to jolt awake.

While most people associate nightmares with small children crawling into their parents’ bed, “between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.” Having nightmares as an adult is a completely normal occurrence, but it is important to understand what may be contributing to these nighttime fits.

Just like dreams, nightmares can be affected by everything from the food you ate before bed, the person you met last week or the event you have coming up. More common causes of nightmares are changes in medications and sleep deprivation, both of which affect the chemical levels in the body. More importantly, adult nightmares can be a sign of more pressing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and depression. Some psychologists even believe that nightmares may be a way of working through traumatic issue that you are not able to handle in a conscious state.

Frequent nightmares become a disorder when they disturb everyday life. Nightmare Disorder is a sleep disorder characterised by the repeated occurrence of frightening dreams which precipitate awakenings from sleep; on awakening, the individual becomes fully alert and oriented and has detailed recall of the nightmare, which usually involves imminent danger or extreme embarrassment to the individual.”

As with most sleep disorders, frequent nightmares can be fixed by keeping a regular sleep cycle and bedtime routine. Regularity in this area can do wonders for all sleep issues. Figuring out what helps you sleep is important to getting the best night’s sleep and avoiding troublesome sleep disorders.

“Adult Nightmares: Causes and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/nightmares-in-adults&gt;.

“Nightmares.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/nightmares&gt;.

“Nightmare Disorder.” Patient.co.uk. 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/nightmare-disorder&gt;.