How lack of sleep affects the brain

Sleep is a vital part of survival. Picture: Pexels/Ivan Oboleninov

Sleep is a vital part of survival. Picture: Pexels/Ivan Oboleninov

Published Jul 14, 2022


The recommended hours of sleep for an adult range from seven to nine hours every day with six hours being the permissible minimum.

Sleep deprivation ensues when an individual is not receiving the recommended adequate amount of sleep. This is a severe condition with several risk factors and effects, especially on the brain.

Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics takes a look at the effects that a lack of quality sleep has on our brain and how we can fix this.

Rudman says the most common “imbalance” that we see relating to sleep is “too- much-sleep” in the front of your brain while you’re focusing and “too-much-busy” at the back of your brain when you’re supposed to be resting.

She says this happens from long-term stressors, a long-term illness, drug or alcohol abuse, anaesthetics, childbirth, brain injuries, having your sleep disrupted, or a combination of these.

“Your brain takes all the slow frequencies from the back of your head and puts them at the front to protect you. Now every time you concentrate, you are literally looking through the sleep to take the information in. You can read and reread something and have no idea of what you’ve read, it’s like looking through the fog of sleep to focus.

“Indirectly, when you go to sleep at night, you can’t fall asleep. You need to focus on something for example reading, watching television, or looking at Facebook to get tired of falling asleep because there is no sleep where it should be. The more you do this, the more it becomes an entrenched pattern,” Rudman says.

One of the most important life processes for every adult is sleep. Picture: Pexels/Craig Adderley

Rudman says many people will turn to consume alcohol or sleeping tablets in an effort to quieten their minds and allow them to sleep. While these will stop the busy voices and allow them to sleep, it will not fix their sleep quality, which means that they will continue to wake up exhausted and end up also needing to consume more of the substance to help them sleep.

“There are other imbalances involved with not sleeping, traumas and stress levels play a part. For instance – if you have experienced an infringement trauma which is something that has made you feel like the world is not a safe place, it is very hard to truly relax and allow sleep because your brain is always on guard to protect you from anything that is not safe,” she says.

“One way that people can improve their sleep quality is to set consistent sleeping and waking times, take part in an early morning exercise routine, reduce their alcohol and caffeine consumption, and eliminate blue light exposure from screens for at least an hour before going to bed,” Rudman says.