Why You Can’t Think Straight When You’re Sleep Deprived
After a bad night of sleep, we feel off our mental game.
After a bad night of sleep, we all typically feel distracted and off our mental game. But do you really know all the ways a lack of sleep interferes with your cognitive performance? Most of my patients are surprised to learn just how broadly a lack of sleep affects their ability to think at their best.
It’s difficult to identify a cognitive skill that isn’t affected by sleep and compromised by sleep deprivation. That’s how pervasive the effects of insufficient sleep are on the brain.
Thanks to recent research, we now know that sleep deprivation interferes with brain function at a cellular level. A study by scientists at UCLA found that sleep deprivation interferes with the ability of some brain cells to function and communicate with one another. We’ve got billions of neural cells working on our behalf, enabling us to make decisions, process information, focus on important information—and remember it down the road. Sleep deprivation slows that work down, compromising our mental performance.
Less robust brain-cell activity isn’t the only way poor sleep hampers our ability to think. Other recent scientific discoveries have told us more about how lack of sleep changes brain function and cognitive performance.