This Is What Getting Too Little Sleep Does to Your Brain

Spoiler alert: getting four hours of sleep is disastrous for your cognition.

By now we know that getting too little shuteye wreaks havoc on your body, making you gain weight, wrecking your next-day workout, and leaving you feeling tired all day. We also know your sleep cycle significantly impacts your mood, and that people who get the recommended amount of shut-eye per night report feeling much happier than those who don't. But, according to a new study published in the academic journal Sleep, the most disastrous byproduct of poor sleep schedule may be on your noggin.

For the study, more than 10,000 people around the world were given 12 tests that are well-known for assessing cognitive performance, and the researchers found that while getting too much or too little sleep seemed to have no impact on short-term memory, it did seriously impair verbal and reasoning skills and problem-solving abilities.

In fact, one of most shocking findings was that the cognitive function of someone who only slept four hours per night was similar to that of a nine-year-old child.

Another surprising revelation was that a poor sleep schedule affects adults equally regardless of age, thereby dispelling the widely-held belief that people in their 20s can afford to go on an all-night bender and still expect to function properly at work the following day.

Recently, a wide-ranging study found that sleeping too much can be just as bad for your heart as sleeping too little, as those who slept for more than 10 hours a night saw a sharp uptick in stroke and cardiovascular disease. But, according to the study published in Sleep, getting into a habitual cycle of "extreme sleep" also impairs your brain.

"We found the optimum amount of sleep to keep your brain performing its best is seven to eight hours every night," said Conor Wild, a research associate at the Brain and Mind Institute and the study's lead author. "That corresponds to what the doctors will tell you need to keep your body in tip-top shape, as well. We also found that people that slept more than that amount were equally impaired as those who slept too little."

So if you want both your body and your mind to be at their best, it's crucial to sleep within the 7 to 9 hour window every night.

And for a tried-and-tested routine that really works, why not get on board with the clean sleeping trend?

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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