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Sleep Deprivation

As I mentioned in a prior post, emotional balance can be enhanced by three basic behaviors that are often disregarded or sabotaged in our busy life. We are so focused on doing more in less time. I am referring to these essential needs of eating, sleeping and exercising.

We always pay, sometimes dearly, for our shortcuts. We pay out of our pockets billions of dollars to the diet industry, more billions to the exercise industry and again more to the medical and pharmaceutical industry for sleep deprivation. We also pay, in the long run, with health issues that lead too many of us to a premature death. We lose our quality of life, our family life, we lose!

Of course, the question that remains is about what comes first: the need to have more and to do more or the emotional imbalance. For instance, when I tell myself that I must have the latest iphone otherwise I will feel distraught and depressed, I drive myself to work more. However, I could also tell myself that I feel distraught and depressed because I work too much therefore, in compensation, I will buy the latest iPhone.

The consequence is always the same: overworked and depressed. No time to eat properly, no time to exercise and certainly less time to sleep. Stress is the cause of most anxiety and depression disorders and the first cause of stress is due to the lack of sleep. The numbers are staggering with 30 percent of adult Americans sleeping less than six hours a night.

Emotional symptoms of sleeplessness or insomnia include irritability, sloppiness, lack of focus, heightened emotionality, loss of motivation and general fatigue. I certainly fit the format, at times…What about you? I also like to understand why I feel like that, simple curiosity, because, regardless, I am still responsible to modify my lifestyle.

According to a recent study, author Talma Hendler of Tel Aviv University in Israel found that the amygdala, a brain region associated with emotion, was responsible for emotional dysfunction in presence of sleep deprivation. The amygdala is no longer able to “prioritize”. Every emotional stimulus takes equal importance. It explains the emotional chaos we experience when facing intense fatigue.

Her team of researchers also found unusual activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region believed to regulate the amygdala. These parts of the brain usually “fire together,” but without adequate rest, these brain regions fire out of sync. As a result, it is harder to control our emotional responses.

So there… we must get as close as possible to 8 hours of sleep every night…one time, no cheating! Sleeping in blocks of time induces a reduction of 30 percent of positive mood whereas sleeping less but in one session only decreases our positive moods by 12 percent according to Johns Hopkins’ researchers.  The more we sleep and the better we sleep play a vital role in maintaining a positive emotional balance in our daily lives. Sleeping is not a luxury, it is necessary!

Hendler T, et al. Losing Neutrality: The Neural Basis of Impaired Emotional Control without Sleep. Journal of Neuroscience. 2015.