We all know what not enough sleep can do to us; we feel cranky, tired, sluggish and unfocused, but it may have more to do with anxiety than many people realize. A new study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience has found that your added morning anxiety isn’t due to drinking too much coffee; it’s more likely to be due to the fact that you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
Turns out that what everyone has been saying about sleep – that it helps to soothe stress – is right. Sleep can be an emotional soother. It works to reset the appropriate amount of reaction in the emotional centers of the brain. Matt Walker, researcher and PhD, professor of neuroscience and psychology with University of California Berkeley, says that when we don’t have enough sleep, the emotional functions stop working properly, and this includes an increase in anxiety.
Dr. Walker and a team of researchers found that being sleep deprived can intensify the activity in the anxiety and anticipation parts of the brain. The insula and the Amygdala become overactive and cause us to feel much more anxious when we haven’t gotten enough sleep.
For their study, they induced a state of anticipatory anxiety by showing 18 healthy adult participants with different levels of anxiety visual cues before showing them a series of pictures. The team studied the activity of the brain with each image and discovered that, in those that had been deprived of sleep, the activity levels in the insula and Amygdala were much higher than when a full night of sleep had been enjoyed.
It gets worse; if you suffer from any type of anxiety disorder, not enough sleep could spell a terrifically tough day. It might have something to do with the fact that activity in the anxiety centers of the brain is already high, and missing sleep can make it even higher.
So, how do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? If you can wake up without your alarm clock each day, you have gotten enough sleep. For most, it’s between seven and nine hours a night, but health care professionals recommend giving yourself a 10 hour window for your sleep time, and set an alarm. You will know that you’re caught up on sleep when you can wake up without your alarm clock each morning.
Sleep deprivation has been a long standing problem for many people; it can cause high blood pressure, anxiety, and weight gain, but those are just a few of the issues it can cause. The most recent study only re-emphasizes what health care professionals have been saying for years: Getting enough sleep is imperative for optimal health.