This is Your Brain on Sleep Deprivation

April 7, 2017

10:30 am

Let’s face it, entrepreneurs just don’t prioritize sleep like they should. There’s a constant churning of “what ifs” and “to dos” in their head that either wakes them up in the middle of the night or makes it harder to get to sleep. And if you’re a parent, you’ve already been sleep deprived for years. Unfortunately, this lack of sleep can cause significant damage to one’s health and brain.

Scientists from the Forschungszentrum Jülich, together with partners from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), have delved into the molecular changes in the brain when faced with sleep deprivation.

Researchers found that the brain begins to change with increasing lack of sleep and it can severely affect one’s performance and health. One of the receptors in our brain, A1 adenosine, which is responsible for one’s urge to sleep, became more prevalent as the subjects continued to burn the midnight oil.

In the experiment, when subjects were asked to conduct certain tasks, there was a reduction in reaction time and memorization of information.

Average adenosine receptor density after a 52-hour wake phase (top) and after 14 hours of sleep (bottom). Credit: Forschungszentrum Jülich via Medical Express

Pulling all-nighters or working 20 hours a day might seem like a valiant effort for your business, but researchers report that you’re doing your business and your health a disservice.

Sleep deprivation has also been related to health issues and lowering our immune system. In a study by University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine, sleep deprived subjects were tested following a vaccination and showed an increased likelihood of catching a virus anyway.

“The results are consistent with studies that show when sleep deprived people are given a vaccine, there is a lower antibody response and if you expose sleep deprived people to a rhinovirus they are more likely to get the virus,” said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center. “This study provides further evidence of sleep to overall health and well-being particularly to immune health.

If you’re a founder who doesn’t want to be stuck in bed away from your company, it might be time to review your sleep habits for  your long-term brain health.

Read more about improving your sleep habits here at Tech.Co

Graphic courtesy of Medical Express

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.

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