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Self Improvement and a Good Night’s Sleep

Updated on September 3, 2012

Self Improvement and Sleeping Well

We all want to be smarter, healthier, well balanced emotionally and physically. We go to sleep each night and wake up each morning, seeking to better ourselves. Now science is learning one of the ways towards self improvement is in the right quality and quantity of sleep. Researchers are learning sleep deprived people have poorer memories, worse judgments, have less patience, more mood swings, and even elicit personality changes.

Sleep is Important to Our Moods and Our Memories

Sleeping, learning, and memory are complex things we do. We all have busy days and long to do lists with so much to learn, and never enough time. ‘Often we will sacrifice our sleep in order to cram more things in the course of a day. While we might feel better because we got some more things done, it is really not a good idea for the sake of our memories and the good of our brain power. Approximately 50% of men and women over the age of 65 years old, have sleep complaints. Sleep disorders can result in a deterioration of one’s thinking. Lack of sleep can affect our moods and our memories.

The Biological Causes from Lack of Sleep

Sleep deprivation affects our emotions. Studies have been done to prove there is a neurological basis for this. In analyzing brain imagings, researchers found that a good night’s sleep can regulate a person’s mood and coping skills. Lack of sleep does just the opposite, and can actually increase anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders, which can affect controlled and appropriate responses. This happens because the part of the brain called the amygdala, which helps alert us in times of danger, becomes heightened with no sleep. This shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which is where we do our reasoning and logical thinking. Reasoning and logical thinking increases chemicals in our brain that calm down the flight or flight response that is coming from the amygdala. More studies need to be done, but observations are showing that in almost all psychiatric disorders there are some forms of sleep disorders are present.

Lack of Sleep Makes Part of Our Brain Hyperactive

With enough sleep deprivation, even healthy brains can take on psychiatric pathological patterns. In looking at results from fMRI (functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging), the amygdala became 60 % more reactive sleep deprived people who were shown negative visual stimuli of gory or upsetting pictures. The people in the study stayed awake for a continuos period of 35 hours. The amygdala is integral in processing emotions. In looking at the imaging of people who slept the entire night, the amygdala showed normal activity. The study was done with 26 people in the age range of 18 to 30 years old, with equal number of males and females. They were divided into 2 groups and each shown the same 100 pictures which ranged from neutral to extremely negative depictions. The researchers saw a hyperactive brain response in the sleep deprived subjects, as they looked at the more and more negative pictures.

Lack of Sleep and Driving

People Are Not Good Judges of How Tired They Are

It is believed during the different phases of sleep, the body does some emotional processing and emotional regulation.When people are really sleep deprived, they have difficulties realizing how tired they are.Eight hours is the recommended amount of sleep. The first night or two of lost sleep, people know they are tired, but tell themselves they can manage. After a few days of consistent sleep loss, people don’t realize how poor their judgment and thinking is. Studies have shown people have a poorer memory, impaired thinking and slower reaction times with sleep deprivation Harvard researchers found there is a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Israeli researchers found worse memory and lower attention in children who got an hour less of sleep than kids who got a full nights sleep.

It Does Not Take Long to Be Sleep Deprived

Researchers firmly believed, after conducting sleep deprivation experiments, that we can not judge for ourselves how tired we are, and what it is actually doing to us. It is believed this may be the reason there are so many car crashes due to lack of sleep.

In a study done, half of the people who caused car accidents didn’t know they were sleepy before the incident. People who are tired are driving impaired, but not aware they are so tired.There are adverse consequences to being sleep deprived, which occur within a short time of not getting enough sleep. Greater than 50% of all Americans, get less than 8 hours of sleep a night.

Constant Insomnia Causes Smaller Gray Matter in the Brain

Even in a study done on mice, the researchers found those who were trained to do something and got enough sleep, remembered it better than those mice who did not. Research has indicated that parts of the brain may even get smaller due to lack of sleep. For a long time, scientists have known that post traumatic stress disorder and depression are related to smaller brain segment sizes.A technique called voxel-based morphometry can look at brain volumes and saw that people with constant insomnia had smaller gray matter in the left orbitofrontal cortex of the brain compared to people who did not have insomnia. All were in fine psychiatric health. This part of the brain is associated with being comfortable. Most people with psychiatric conditions have insomnia and a smaller cortical part of their brain. This does not mean that most people with insomnia have psychiatric conditions. It does mean that people with psychiatric conditions have insomnia.

Sleep Apnea

Scientists at UCLA found people with sleep apnea had brain tissue loss in the area that stores memory. Approximately 20 million Americans have sleep apnea.Sleep apnea happens when the airway is blocked and causes a cessation in breathing, and then loud snores as the breathing resumes.People with sleep apnea do not get a good night’s sleep. They are so fatigued during the day, they can even fall asleep in the middle of doing things. People who suffer from this condition deal with poor memories and lose focus easily. Studies have shown brain differences also.

Strong Neural Connections are Made While We Sleep

Sleep is an important part of learning and retaining new tasks. Not getting enough sleep affects a person’s judgment, mood, perception, and motivation. Gettingenough sleep is important to learn and retain information. The complexity of all this is not fully understood. Quality and quantity of sleep is very important for memory. It is believed that sleep helps us to learn in 2 ways. It helps us focus and it helps store what we have learned into our long term memories. Memory is important for learning new information.

Researchers have looked at different stages of sleep to see how this affects our memory, and also studied how lack of sleep affects our learning. Researchers believe memories are consolidated by neural connection that formed from learning a new task or an experience. Stronger neural connections are made during the hours we sleep. It is not exactly know how this is possible, but the brainwaves during different stages of sleep are probably related to forming memories.

Sleep Needs to Take Priority Over the Other Things We Do

As more studies are done, researchers will learn more about sleep stages and itaffect on memory.

The most important correlation we know for sure is that being sleep deprived impairs memory, learning, and our judgment. Getting enough sleep is more important than we realize.

Too often, we think sleep is something we can give up for other things. But perhaps we all need to reassess what we are doing, and give sleep a greater priority. The hours we sleep are an investment in ourselves, far more than we possibly ever realized.


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    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi RT,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am glad you found this article informative. No matter informed people are, they still make wrong choices. But through education and awareness, maybe people will make better choices for themselves. We can only hope.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      This is loaded with important information that we need to know and heed. Super concluding paragraph. People are becoming more informed on this topic but it's good to see this posted.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Kath, It is so true, and amazing how good we feel when we get a good night's rest. On a different note, my hub about Totem Poles was nominated for the Top of the Class Contest. If you like and want to vote today for my Totem Pole hub, I would appreciate it.

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago from California

      Good Hub toknowinfo- Sleep is indeed so important, we just don't function the same without our quality straight 8!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Abby, we all think sleep can be put to the side, but we need it every night whether we realize it or not. Thanks for your comments.

    • dearabbysmom profile image

      dearabbysmom 7 years ago from Indiana

      Great informative hub! It's so easy to push sleep down to the bottom of the "to do" list. As your research shows, there is a price to pay for doing that!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Joyce, Thanks for adding to this discussion. Like you said, worrying about not getting enough sleep only interferes with sleep. Getting enough sleep is such a delicate balance in our lives. There are so many things that make sleeping enough difficultbb I am glad you stopped by, and I hope you sleep well.

    • jkuras2010 profile image

      jkuras2010 7 years ago

      Hi: I have also researched the importance of sleep and many people are suffering from not getting enough sleep. This is advertised all over, even by doctors. With all the stress we have, health issues, employment loss, personal tragedies, etc., it is not easy to just put those on the shelf for 7-8 hours. What has personally helped me is my faith in God knowing all things are in His hands. Worry and anxiety cannot help the situation, but they actually undermine our thinking and make our choices a bit unclear and then we make decisions based on fear not solid realistic thinking.

      In my own life, lack of sleep seems to heighten my feeling of hopelessness in certain situations or just blow their importance up too much.

      Always good to be reminded about these important health issues that affect us all.


      Joyce Kuras

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Gordon, As I am writing this, I hope you are well into dreamland. I hope this info helps you change your sleeping habits for the better. It takes about a month to change a habit, I hope you will work all month on getting more sleep. I am sure you will feel better and perhaps be more efficient when you sleep more. Let me know how you are doing. Take good care of yourself.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Ang, I am glad you enjoyed this hub. It is so easy to be sleep deprived. We try to squeeze so much in the course of a day, and think that sleep comes second. I am glad you learned a thing or two from this hub.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Toknowinfo, this is one of the most valuable Hubs I think I have ever read.

      I have never been much of a sleeper, with irregular sleep patterns since childhood. Since I became self-employed, (approximately) four years ago, that has intensified on an ongoing basis. As things stand at the moment, I only go to bed on average four nights a week, at most five. Usually when I do go to bed it is at around five or six am, as I live in the UK and work US hours.

      I have known for a long time that my sleep patterns (or lack thereof) are dangerous and are harming me but I don't think I realised just how much until I read your wonderful Hub. I am typing these words at just gone 1.30am, having not been to bed for circa 36 hours and suddenly feel really tired. I genuinely am now about to sign the computer off and go to bed.

      I am going to bookmark this Hub and read it over again several times in the very near future and beyond.


    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 7 years ago

      I love to sleep more than anything else but that's not to say that I sleep all the time. I crave sleep because I sometimes am deprived (not getting the good 7 to 8 hours of sleep). Your hub highlights the great importance of sleep. If only life can be arranged so there is enough time to sleep and do the other gazillions things waiting to be done. Rated up--you're awesome in detailed information.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Quildon, Based on your hubs, you look to me like you have plenty of gray matter. A good night's sleep is hard to get and it seems like most of us are just trying to manage on whatever sleep we can get.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 7 years ago from Florida

      I'm sure I have smaller gray matter because I don't get enough sleep. But I find that if I go to bed later, then I tend to sleep through the night.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Da, It is amazing how little sleep we got by on. But sleep is more important than we realize. I am glad you came by to visit.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Voted up and useful. It is very informative.In my younger days with work and school I missed a lot of sleep.It never seemed a problem for short periods but or occasionally but consistent lack of sleep is self evidently a problem.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Peter, Sleep is something that can be difficult to get. There are so many things that interfere with getting a good rest. Sleep is sensitive, and we don't yet know all the factors that go into sleeping. I know magnesium helps calm our brains and rest. It needs to be pure magnesium. And melatonin is also supposed to help sleep better. I am glad you have gotten used to it, but I hope you can find a way to improve your sleeping patterns. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for stopping by.

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 7 years ago from South East Asia

      Thank you. Both interesting and informatitive. I sleep badly. If I get two hours in a row I am doing well and a total of six hours in a night is amazing. It used to bother me but does not any longer. If I don't worry then I still am rested with just three hours. My brain is at its best at around 06.00 when I rise.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Pdog, So you are telling me you don't sleep like a dog! Getting enough sleep is easier said than done, but there are no substitutes to being better all the way around.

    • profile image 7 years ago

      LOL. Never enough time. You got me in one tki. I sacrifice sleep to get more time - kids in bed is the only time when one can priortize oneself! I've learned to cat nap - which is not easy being a dog!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Ment, I am always honored when you stop by to read and comments on my hub. Thanks for your comments.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Micky, I sleep the same amount of hours you do. I too, go to sleep later because I want to wake up later. It is annoying to wake so early in the morning. Mine is due to that middle age time of life. With all the bicycling you do, I am surprised you don't sleep longer. I wish you good sleep, true love, and all the happiness. You deserve to have good things in your life.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Lucas, Welcome to HubPages. I am glad this article taught you a few things. We treat sleep like it is something we can do without, but we need every minute of it. I look forward to reading your hubs and it will be nice getting to know you.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Mel, Glad you liked this hub. Thanks for stopping by. I am happy to know you learned a thing or two. How is it to sleep with such a long neck?

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Multiman, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for the up rating.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      An important hub toknowinfo.;)

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Great hub dear toknowinfo. I have had intermittent sleep for decades. My "usual routine" is to wake at 4 AM and I'm up. I often go to bed later so that I can sleep till dawn. My sleep is often 6 hours but too often it can be 4 hours or so. Occasionally I am pushed internally to take a nap during the day. It just is what it is. I've been living like this for decades.

      I'll have to admit that being in a "true relationship" with a loving mate - helps. I've never slept better than when I was loved. God bless you dear heart.

    • LucasKl profile image

      LucasKl 7 years ago from Hamburg, Germany

      You are right - sleep is very important. I didn't know the scientific details though, thanks for teaching me :-)

      Many people work long hours, and as a result don't sleep enough. Consequently, they become less productive and have to work even more hours.

      All this, even though the simple solution would be to just sleep more!

    • Mel Jay profile image

      Mel Jay 7 years ago from Australia

      Thumbs up from me too - learned a lot from this hub, Cheers - Mel

    • profile image

      Multiman 7 years ago

      Great hub! Voted up!


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