Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sleep Deprivation Makes You Crazy

Everyone in my family knows that sleep deprivation makes you crazy. It scares them when I bumble around in the morning, ranting at cupboard doors and talking to my imaginary friend. Of course, if they really cared about my mental health, they'd keep their asses in bed all night and not yell for me at 1:00 a.m.

People have joked about the raving soccer moms careening around in their SUVs wild-eyed, aggressive and demented as though the SUV is causing her behavior. Oh no, my friend. It's not the gas guzzling monster. It's sleep deprivation. The government needs to save us by providing night-time nannies. It's their fault my higher brain functioning is crap:

"When we're sleep deprived, it's really as if the brain is reverting to more primitive behavior, regressing in terms of the control humans normally have over their emotions," researcher Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience.

"While we predicted that the emotional centers of the brain would overreact after sleep deprivation, we didn't predict they'd overreact as much as they did," Walker said. "They became more than 60 percent more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That's a whopping increase—the emotional parts of the brain just seem to run amok."

The researchers pinpointed this hyperactive response to a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe, a brain region that normally keeps emotions under control. This structure is relatively new in human evolution, "and so it may not yet have adapted ways to cope with certain biological extremes," Walker speculated. "Human beings are one of the few species that really deprive themselves of sleep. It's a real oddity in nature."

It sure feels primitive being sleep deprived. Matted hair, bulging eyes, dry mouth and lips, heavy head, all that's missing is my poison darts and Wooly Mammoth. I guess I don't need it. I have coffee and children. Kinda the same.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a factor in post-partum depression/psychosis?

Melissa Clouthier said...

There is no question in my mind that post-partum depression could be stopped if we went back to the good old days in this way: the mom had female support during birth, right after the birth and for about 30 days around the house while the baby was little. The other, more experienced woman could cook and clean and feed the woman and family, could coach on mothering, could intervene if the mom isn't doing so well mentally (have the objectivity to recommend a doctor's visit). All sorts of problems would be solved this way. First and foremost, the new mom could get some sleep.

Judi M said...

I was just thinking about this yesterday when I was being a crab-ass to my son and my husband told me I needed to go to bed early and get more sleep. So I did.

I suffered from PPD and I agree more sleep would be very helpful, but it wouldn't solve the problem.

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