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Essay: Sleep deprivation

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  • Subject area(s): Health essays
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  • Published: 22 September 2015*
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  • Words: 1,566 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 7 (approx)

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When you are sleep deprived, your alertness and concentration level will lower and thought processing slows down. This makes it harder to focus which makes you confused; it is harder for you to pick up information and learning would not be as efficient. This gets in the way with your ability to accomplish tasks which involves logical reasoning.
In order for you to remember something, it needs to be in your long term memory, but for it to enter your long term memory, it first needs to be in your short term memory. Sleep inserts the things learnt during the day into the short term memory and if you keep on going over that particular memory and improving it, then it would be transferred to the long term memory. Sleep greatly helps with learning.
When sleeping, the brain categorizes the day’s memories in different sections. It shifts the memories to more efficient storage regions within the brain at different times of the night. There are 5 stages of sleep and each is specialized to process specific types of information. This is why it is important to have an adequate amount of sleep as the more times the sleep cycle can repeat, the more information the brain will process, so the more things you will be able to remember.
One of the stages in the sleep cycle is the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM is significant for learning and preserving memory. During REM sleep, the brain processes the information learnt during the day, consolidates the connections between brain cells and between different brain regions that create our memories and refills its supply of neurotransmitters, which also includes chemicals that makes you feel good which boosts your mood for the rest of the day. Sleeping an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning is advisable; this is when the REM stage is longest, therefore, more mind and mood boosting sleep will be obtained, resulting in being able to be more attentive in class and to feel more refreshed. Just improving the amount you sleep normally can improve REM sleep.
In an experiment, 12 people were taught a sequence of skilled finger movements. Half of them had a nap and half of them did not and after a 12-hour period, they were tested to see how much of the sequence they remembered while a MRI evaluated the brain activity.
The MRI showed that the cerebellum, which works as one of the brain’s motor centres controlling speed and accuracy, was much more active with the people who had slept. The MRI also showed that in the brain’s limbic system, the region that controls emotion such as stress and anxiety, were much less active. Together, the changes that sleep gave resulted in improvements in the peoples’ skill performance. When enough sleep has been acquired, not only can memory tasks be achieved more rapidly, it can also be done with less stress.
There are two types of memory. One is procedural memory which is the memory which permits us to play a musical instrument and to ride a bike. The other is declarative memory which is the memory of information such as facts and names. There are two main kinds of sleep: REM and NREM. REM helps with procedural memory and NREM helps with declarative memory.
Lack of sleep is very common. Every day there’s always something which would keep us up, either homework or just watching something online. Some people might think that they are able to train themselves so that their body can get used to not having as much sleep but they are wrong. Sleep is crucial for everyday life; it regenerates the whole body, in particular the brain so that it can remain working optimally. Sleep deprivation will result in neurons malfunctioning which has an effect on the person’s behaviour.
The temporal lobe processes language. If verbal learning tests are given to people who have had enough sleep, then this area of the brain would be very active. But in people who have not slept well, there is no activity here.
Even though there is no activity in the temporal lobe in people who are sleep deprived, they can still complete the task, therefore another area of the brain must be active to make up for the malfunctioning temporal lobe. This other area is the parietal lobe. Surprisingly, the parietal lobe was not active at all in the fully rested people’s brain.
Non rested people actually have better short term memory, interestingly. The parietal lobe is in charge of memory and since it is already active in the non-rested peoples’ brain, therefore it is simpler for new synapses to be made, consequently creating new short term memories is easier.
The parietal lobe is also associated with maths. This part is active in well rested people when given a maths problem to solve so they can answer the questions quite easily. However, the parietal lobe is not active in a sleep deprived person and no other area of the brain starts to become active so they only could answer a few questions with less accuracy. The parietal lobe has been active in a sleep deprived person when given a verbal problem, but not when given a maths person and this is because, due to the lack of sleep, the parietal lobe cannot function properly and no other part of the brain can compensate for it so it is very important to sleep well before a maths exam but not so much for a speaking exam.
Similar to a person cannot run for 5 days nonstop, a person’s brain cannot function without a break. Various parts of the brain rest during the different stages of the sleep cycle so we cannot under-sleep. Without sleep, our brains will weaken and where will we be without our brains?
When a person is taught a new skill she or he cannot get better at that new skill until he or she has slept for at least eight hours. A long sleep will make sure that the brain can finish the whole of the sleep cycle, including REM sleep. Sleep is essential for learning as more proteins are produced and the rate in which they break down is reduced when sleeping. The neurons need proteins to regenerate them. Without proteins, new synapses cannot be created, so there would be only so much information a sleep deprived person can preserve.
Until the 1950s, the majority of people thought sleep was just a dormant part of our everyday lives. We now know that our brains are very active during sleep. Additionally, sleep affects not only our physical and mental health, but also our daily functioning.
So how much sleep do we actually need? Toddlers need 16 hours a day, teenagers need 9 hours and adults need at least 7. If a person has been sleep deprived in the previous days, then naturally the amount of sleep required is increased to make up for the sleep missed.
If you feel tired during the day, even when in boring activities, that means you do not have enough sleep. If you always fall asleep 5 minutes after your head touches the pillow, then it is a high chance that you have severe sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is perilous. Sleep-deprived people who are tested with a hand-eye coordination activity perform worse than those who are drunk. Therefore, it is highly advisable to not become sleep deprived!
People who learnt a skill and who are deprived from non-REM sleep are able to remember what they had been taught after sleeping, but people who deprived of REM sleep could not recollect it. This shows how important REM sleep is in learning new mental skills.
Sleep after learning is vital to help save new information into the brain, so that you will be less likely to forget it.
When you sleep, the brain goes through different stages in the sleep cycle, which includes non-REM sleep and REM sleep. The non-REM stages will ensure that you are able to learn new things the next day; if you haven’t slept, your ability to study new things will drop by up to 40%. Sleep deprivation affects the hippocampus, a part of the brain, which is in charge of creating new memories.
When you are awake, many memories will be accumulated but most would have been forgotten as they are in a weak form. When you sleep, the brain goes through the recent memories and chooses what to retain and to not. Some memories are also made stronger, it was shown that certain memories, like playing a tune on a musical instrument can improve while sleeping. Memories are more stable during deep sleep stages. After that, during REM sleep, the brain links related memories together.
This is why in order to learn as much as possible during any day, it is important to sleep well the night before and the night after.
Unfortunately, the deep sleep memory strengthening stages deteriorate in the late 30s. Elderly people over 60 had a 70% loss of deep sleep compared to people in the 20s. This is why elderly people tend to forget things more easily.
The best way to remember something new that you have learnt is to sleep on it. Why? Because sleeping helps make memories stronger and it also links new memories with the ones you already have.

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