Sleep and mental health go hand-in-hand. Research shows that you might feel anxious, sad, or irritable after a poor night's sleep. Conversely, if you're struggling with mental issues, such as depression or bi-polar disorder, healthy sleep can become even more elusive to the point where you're awake for extended periods of time. Here's how extreme sleep loss can send you on a head trip:
1. You Can Become REALLY paranoid
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong,” the saying goes. But it could mean you’re super sleep deprived. One study reviewing a body of research found that staying awake for 24 hours or more could make you over-perceive the threat of global disaster. In some cases, you might even think you’re responsible for things that have nothing to do with you—like being the reason for the Egyptian-Israeli conflict, or that a Secret Agent is trying to get you to return to the Suez Canal (both things study participants reported believing!).
2. Your brain goes schizophrenic
We all have a Dr. Jekyll alter ego (or is that just us?), but sleep loss brings it out. According to one study, staying up for 24 hours or more can cause your brain to show symptoms of schizophrenia, such as being able to read thoughts, and even having an altered sense of time and smell.
3. You Might Be Legally Drunk (Without Drinking!)
That’s right—being awake for 20-25 hours straight is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10, higher than the limit of being legally drunk, one study revealed. This means you’ve compromised your ability to drive a car, ride a bike, or operate machinery.>
4. You may hallucinate
Research shows that missing out on sleep for 24 hours or more can trigger your brain into a delirious, imaginative state. One study reported extremely sleep deprived participants saw visions of people who weren’t there and walked into walls they perceived as open doors.
5. You can lose brain cells
Your brain needs those restful hours at night to store memories, organize information, and more. But after being awake for 18 hours straight, you start to put your brain cells to pasture. One animal study reveals that 25-30 percent of brain cells can die after extreme sleep loss.
6. Emotional IQ suffers
You already know you aren’t yourself when you’re tired, but when you’re short on zzz’s you might turn into an angry, isolated bird. One study looked at how sleep loss affects emotional empathy. Participants who didn’t sleep for 24 hours showed reduced capacity for that kind of emotional understanding, compared to those who slept.
7. Romantic IQ suffers, too
Imagine approaching someone thinking she gave you the “eye” when she didn’t (ouch!). Just one night of sleep deprivation could impact how you perceive cues from potential mates and the decisions you make, according to findings from one college study. Do your mind and body a favor by making sleep a priority. And if you're experiencing any of the symptoms above, see a doctor. Your brain will thank you.
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