How Sleepless Nights Affect Your Body

PHOTO: How does a sleepless night affect your body?
Share
Copy

The second you woke up this morning, your cells started pumping out a sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine. It built up throughout the day and now, along with other substances, it's saturating your brain, making you drowsy.

As the sun set, your brain's pineal gland began producing the sleep hormone melatonin, which signals to your body it's time to snooze.

A neurochemical called GABA now activates the brain stem's sleep command center. Next stop, Zzzzzz...

15 Tricks to Sleep Better

After a Few Minutes

But first, you take a mental inventory of your day, thinking about what you should have said, could have done, still need to do. Big mistake. Though you're lying still, your mind has revved up your fight-or-flight stress response.

Your adrenal glands unleash adrenaline, which increases your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing rate.

Adrenaline recruits a partner, the stress hormone cortisol. Among other things, it raises blood sugar levels and mental alertness.

Game on. Your brain's sleep and wake centers are at war with each other.

After a Couple Hours

You glance at the clock. Grrr. Your frustration triggers another round of that adrenaline-cortisol cocktail. Some deep breathing could calm your agitated mind.

After About Three Hours

You give up and switch on your laptop. The screen's blue light squashes your melatonin levels and tricks your brain into thinking it's daytime. Also, your mind is likely engaged in whatever you're reading or watching, making you even more awake.

After About Five Hours

The brain's sleep center finally wins the tug-of-war, and you nod off. But instead of ebbing and flowing, your brain waves are stuck on high frequency, causing a fitful sleep.

After About Seven Hours

The alarm blares. Chances are, you're waking up when your brain waves are finally sliding into the delta phase associated with deep sleep, which is much harder to quickly snap out of.

You're up, but you haven't burned through enough of that adenosine, so your head feels foggy. Reaching for a java infusion might help--caffeine negates adenosine's effects.

Throughout the Morning

The lack of rest could make the amygdala, your brain's emotional center, more active than usual. You may feel grouchy or the opposite, unusually giddy.

5 Natural Energy Boosters

Meanwhile, your brain's prefrontal cortex -- your reasoning and concentration center -- is dragging. You may feel like an unfocused, irritable hot mess. But if you hit the hay at your usual time tonight and do that relaxing deep breathing, you should be able to score a solid night's sleep.

***

More from Women's Health:

Do You Have Prediabetes?

Solve Your Stomach Pain

Sleep Positions For Couples

10 Sleep Myths Busted!

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...