Stay up too late and feel foggy the next day?
This situation is not unusual, and many people have experienced the feeling of brain fog, sluggishness or difficulty concentrating after a late night.
A joint research study performed by Tel Aviv University, UCLA and the University of Wisconsin has uncovered why late nights and lack of sleep affect how your brain works.
The study found that not getting enough sleep causes neurons in the brain to slow down, which translates to reduced cognitive activity and delayed responses.
Not only that, but this slowdown in neural activity can also cause changes in visual perception and memory.
Missing sleep here and there can happen as a result of many things - like work deadlines, illness or partying - but for individuals who miss out on getting good sleep night after night, it can be life-altering, frustrating and in some cases downright deadly.
Many of these individuals are living with insomnia or another type of sleep disorder known as sleep apnea.
Insomnia is a sleep condition that makes sufferers feel restless, toss and turn, and have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It can develop as a result of health issues, psychological or emotional conditions, behavioral factors or habits, medication, or substance abuse. It can also develop as a result of conditions such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
The effects of insomnia include daytime fatigue, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Although the side effects of sleep apnea are similar to those of insomnia, sleep apnea is another, more dangerou beast in and of itself.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep.
'These pauses are often caused by the airway becoming blocked,' said Dr. Sean Endsley, a Waco, Texas, dentist.
Blockages of the airway occur when the muscles of the throat relax and fall down to stop the flow of air or when the tongue falls back to block the airway.
'When this happens, affected individuals do not get restful sleep. The result is feeling fatigued, and very often, brain fog,' Endsley said.
Endsley works with patients living with sleep apnea to improve their airways through oral appliances and other treatments.
'By putting the jaw in the correct position, the breathing improves during sleep. Patients experience restorative sleep and feel well rested,' Endsley said.
Researchers believe that sleep apnea affects between 18 and 29 million American men, women and children, and experts in the condition believe the large majority of those living with the condition are undiagnosed.
This situation is especially concerning for Endsley.
'Untreated sleep apnea does not just cause brain fog or fatigue - it can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, diabetes and other serious health conditions,' Endsley said.
Common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, gasping for breath during sleep, weight gain, frequent nighttime urination and fatigue.
'If you think you have sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder, talk to your doctor,' Endsley said.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lack of sleep makes your brain work slower. 7 November 2017.