How Does Too Little or Too Much Sleep Affect Your Brain?

By Lisa Franchi on March 08, 2013

They say too little sleep can be dangerous, so can too much.  

Many studies have shown that lack of sleep can negatively affect our health and quality of life. If you’ve ever tried sleeping for only four hours because you had to do lots of paperwork, you must have experienced a range of unhealthy symptoms the next day, from light-headedness to fatigue, drowsiness, lack of energy and poor concentration. Sleep deprivation has been a subject of research for decades and more and more scientists are giving credits to the critical role of sleep in health and wellness.

Sleeping is one of the best ways to let all parts of your body rest, especially your brain.  

How Sleep Affects Your Brain Health

Your brain works non-stop, performing most of the major functions that affect the rest of your body. And just like any organ, your brain needs to rest as well. And what could be a better way to let your brain rest than to have a deep slumber? Sleep has a special role in enhancing neuronal connections and preventing cellular damage that leads to mental health problems. When we are tired, we sleep to rest and replenish our strength. And it seems logical that our brain follows the same pattern. When you sleep, your brain is at rest. And during its rest mode, your brain becomes less active – the perfect moment to replenish and repair any damage caused by external and internal factors.

Aside from sharpening your brain, the right amount of sleep can help prevent mental decline that goes along with age. That’s according to a study by the University College London. In this research, men and women who slept for an average of 7 hours performed better on reasoning tests than those who slept for less than 6 hours, as well as the people who slept for more than 8.

While most studies on sleep focused on the effects of sleep deprivation, it is good to see a scientific research that tackles the effects of too much sleep. This study reminds us that even when it comes to sleep, too little or too much can be harmful.

Promoting good sleep for better brain health

The hours you spend on bed awake should not be counted when determining your average sleeping time. You should be able to achieve 7 hours of full shut-eye. But due to external distractions, such as noise and light, and internal distractions like stress and illnesses, it can be difficult to get the recommended amount of sleep. So how do you deal with issues like these?

Set a bedtime schedule. It can be helpful to strictly comply with your bedtime schedule even during weekends. So if you want to be able to sleep at 9 pm, you have to make sure you’re on your bed at least 15 minutes before that time. This way, you allow your body clock to adjust to your sleeping schedule and help you sleep and wake up on time.

Sweat it out. A new study recommends exercising (at no particular time of the day) to improve you quality of sleep. Moderate to vigorous types of exercise are given the most credit.

Use an alarm clock. If you have problems with excessive sleeping, you may need to use an alarm clock. Make sure you are able to sleep for 7 hours before your clock wakes you up.

Have some warm shower before bedtime. High levels of stress can interrupt with your sleeping patterns and prevent you from having a restful sleep. It is always a good idea to relax before finally going to bed.

Practise yoga and meditation. Scientific research has proven that yoga and mindfulness meditation can help eliminate sleeping problems and promote restful sleep.

Have some power nap. Studies show that power napping boosts brain power by allowing the brain to undergo a ‘clearing process’ in its temporary storage space so it can absorb new information.

Make your sleeping environment comfortable. If you can install sound insulation, much better! You don’t want to be distracted by loud noises while sleeping. Having a clean, fresh-smelling room will also help you sleep better.


Dear Readers, 

What other tips can you recommend to ensure people get enough sleep?

Share your comments below.

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