What Happens In The Brain When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

person sleeping, turning off alarm

What Happens In The Brain When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

In 1973, in a small town in Northern Italy, a woman by the name of Elisabetta died from a mysterious disease. The town physician, after digging deeper into the cause of her death, discovered that she had developed acute insomnia. This had caused her to suffer paranoia and confusion for months before her death. Similarly, in 2012, a 26-year-old man died after staying up for 11 consecutive days watching a Euro-Soccer Match marathon. 

What these two people had in common was sleep deprivation. Almost everyone knows the importance of sleep, yet ironically the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a third of adults lack sleep regularly. What is worse is that many people brag about it. Including celebrities and business gurus, according to Business Insider. This is an extremely dangerous message to pass on, especially knowing the damage lack of sleep can cause to the brain. The most common effects are as follows.

Poor Concentration

Lack of sleep may be related to the decline in human growth hormone (HGH), which is responsible for keeping the cells in our body young and healthy. The brain, like all other organs, needs a regular supply of HGH. It becomes harder for the brain to produce enough of the HGH needed to maintain normal behavior and health.

Because lack of sleep affects the way you think, you won’t be able to solve problems like you normally would. A lack of rest can slow down reactions and lead to an inability to problem-solve. Problems such as driving, working, and even language skills will become difficult as the brain tries to process information at a less than the maximum level of efficiency.


Memory Loss

This includes memory recall, information processing, and decision-making, which directly affect everything you do in your daily life. Don’t forget that you need a certain level of concentration for memory recall. Due to mental fatigue, lack of sleep can hamper concentration and thus cause memory loss. It’s like a domino effect in your brain.

Delirium Tremens (DTs)

Delirium tremens is dreaming while you are awake. This disorder can cause seizures, hallucinations, comatose, dementia, and cardiovascular collapse. 

People suffering from alcohol withdrawal suffer from this the most. This disorder is often misdiagnosed since the symptoms of DTs closely mimic those of other illnesses such as allergies or asthma. Some researchers believe that this could be caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain due to a lack of proper mechanics in the brain during sleep.


Stroke is the third-largest cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. It can cause permanent damage to the brain and is very difficult to diagnose in its early stages because the symptoms are so similar to those of many other diseases. Stroke, however, is often brought on by a lack of proper rest or poor sleeping habits which are exacerbated by alcohol and other substances which we consume during the day. 


So how can you combat poor concentration? Well, one way is to ensure that you are getting a good night’s sleep every night so that your body can relax and rest. Another thing that you can do is to take short naps throughout the day, which ensures you do not become too fatigued. Remember to drink plenty of water as well to keep yourself hydrated and prevent dehydration. In addition, always remember to eat a healthy diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, so that you can stay away from those foods that are known to contribute to lack of sleep, such as junk food, alcohol, and soft drinks.

If you live in Homewood or Birmingham and need more advice, contact the team at TMJ & Sleep Solutions today.