From Learning To Personality: How Does Insufficient Sleep Affect The Brain?

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Known to many, insufficient sleep affects brain function and mood. But recent studies have shown that lack of sleep can cause more serious adverse effects particularly in one's learning and personality.

According to Daily Mail, researchers have found that insufficient sleep can literally shrink the brain, increase levels of stress, and impair memory. The most vulnerable are those with regularly disrupted body clock like shift workers and nursing mothers.

Among the cases studied were those of airline cabin crews. University of Bristol's scientists conducted a study wherein they measured the size of the volunteers' brains' temporal lobe region using scanning technology. Dr. Kwangkook Cho led the study.

The volunteers were female air stewardesses working for five years. Half of them had working intervals that were less than five days between long-haul flights, while the other half had intervals longer than 14 days. Dr. Cho found that the temporal lobe regions shrunk among volunteers with the shortest flight intervals, whereas those with longer intervals did not suffer in the same way.

The said region is critical to memory. Apparently, those whose brains shrunk had higher levels of stress hormone cortisol and worse memories. Previous studies suggested that high levels of cortisol caused by post-traumatic stress and severe depression have links to temporal lobe shrinkage.

Meanwhile, Independent reported how insufficient sleep affects one's learning and personality. For instance, popular New York DJ Peter Tripp pledged to stay awake for 200 hours in 1959. This was for charity purposes, and he still continued to host his radio show amidst the "wakeathon". The act affected his personality as time went by. Usually cheerful, he started cursing and insulting people including his close friends. At the end of his endeavor, Tripp showed paranoid behaviors and started hallucinating. Independent also cited other cases like those of gamblers who made less risky decisions after being awake for significantly long hours.

Furthermore, experts stressed that another brain area suffers due to insufficient sleep. It is the hippocampus, which is critical for storing memories. Studies have found that lack of sleep affects a person's ability to memorize and in turn affects the process of learning.

Experts also emphasized the need to understand the value of complete rest and its benefits. Snoozing is an important factor in making better decisions, learning better, and having a happier personality and life as a whole.

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