Sleep is an inte­gral and impor­tant part of every­one’s life. With­out sleep, a per­son will live much less than with­out water. With chron­ic insom­nia, we begin to feel less social, and recent research has shown that lack of sleep can affect social rela­tion­ships. Med­AboutMe will tell about the caus­es of sleep dis­or­ders and the results of research.

Sleep Disorders: Health Implications

Sleep Disorders: Health Implications

Sleep dis­or­ders can con­tribute to many men­tal and phys­i­cal prob­lems. Con­se­quences include: depres­sion, cog­ni­tive impair­ment. Some stud­ies have shown that sleep dis­tur­bances can increase the like­li­hood of devel­op­ing type 2 dia­betes. There­fore, doc­tors often ask ques­tions about the qual­i­ty of sleep and may even pre­scribe appro­pri­ate stud­ies.

A study con­duct­ed at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia has proven a link between sleep dis­or­ders and build­ing social rela­tion­ships. Matthew Walk­er, lead author of the study and a sleep sci­en­tist, not­ed that humans are a social species, and with­out this kind of rela­tion­ship, the sur­vival of humans as a species would be in jeop­ardy. How­ev­er, sleep dis­tur­bance can make us social out­casts.

The study showed that on the one hand, peo­ple who suf­fered from sleep loss are less inclined to social rela­tion­ships. On the oth­er hand, such peo­ple become less attrac­tive to soci­ety, there­fore, there can be no talk of rela­tion­ships.

Sleep loss and social relationships

To get the results, the UCLA team looked at func­tion­al MRI brain scans and oth­er tests that mea­sured social iso­la­tion and sleep qual­i­ty.

The study involved 18 adults who were divid­ed into 2 groups: one group was pro­vid­ed with ade­quate sleep, and the sec­ond was deprived of it through­out the day.

The first phase of the study involved study­ing brain activ­i­ty, when the sub­jects were asked to watch a short video of peo­ple with a neu­tral facial expres­sion walk­ing towards the sub­jects. All par­tic­i­pants in the study had the option to stop the broad­cast at any time they felt the per­son on the screen was too close. Depend­ing on where the video was stopped, the researchers were able to assess the par­tic­i­pants’ com­fort lev­el, their readi­ness for social con­tacts and rela­tion­ships.

An analy­sis of the data showed that sleep-deprived peo­ple were more like­ly to avoid rela­tion­ships than those whose sleep was full. Par­tic­i­pants in the sleep­less group stopped the video 18–60% of the time ear­li­er.

When study­ing MRI images, it was pos­si­ble to reveal even more inter­est­ing results. Doc­tors found that sleep-deprived patients showed increased activ­i­ty in a brain cir­cuit that “turns on” in response to the threat­en­ing pres­ence of a per­son. The same images also showed a low­er lev­el of activ­i­ty in those areas of the brain that eval­u­ate emo­tions, their own inten­tions and the behav­ior of oth­ers.

These two results togeth­er prove that sleep loss impairs a per­son­’s abil­i­ty to assess the inten­tions of oth­ers, and social rela­tion­ships for him turn out to be less attrac­tive and nec­es­sary.

Oth­er sleep sci­en­tists have point­ed out that it is per­haps no coin­ci­dence that over the past few decades there has been a marked increase in the num­ber of lone­ly peo­ple, as well as a sharp decrease in the dura­tion of sleep.

Doctors’ opinion

Doctors' opinion

Anoth­er part of the study focused on how exter­nal observers per­ceive sleep-deprived patients. To obtain data, 1033 third-par­ty observers were involved in the study.

With­out explain­ing the pur­pose of the study, par­tic­i­pants were asked to watch a video of a group of sleep-deprived sub­jects dis­cussing var­i­ous top­ics. After­wards, the par­tic­i­pants were asked to eval­u­ate what they saw accord­ing to sev­er­al cri­te­ria:

  • how lone­ly the peo­ple you see look;

  • whether there was an inter­est in inter­act­ing and form­ing social rela­tions with them.

The researchers then asked the observers about their own feel­ings. Inter­est­ing­ly, after watch­ing the video for a minute, the observers not­ed that they were lit­er­al­ly infect­ed with a bad mood and began to feel iso­lat­ed.

In the final phase of the study, the researchers asked par­tic­i­pants to com­plete a stan­dard­ized sur­vey after just one sleep­less night, and then after a full night’s sleep. The find­ings showed that patients who were sleep deprived for a night or more were more like­ly to feel lone­ly and unso­cia­ble in the morn­ing, and this mood per­sist­ed through­out the day.

Accord­ing to doc­tors, just one night of good sleep helps to improve mood, a per­son becomes more socia­ble, con­fi­dent and ready to build new rela­tion­ships. In addi­tion, a well-rest­ed per­son is more attrac­tive to oth­ers.

Also, the find­ings sug­gest that chron­ic sleep depri­va­tion and sleep dis­or­ders will soon­er or lat­er affect social life and emo­tion­al health. The authors of the study not­ed that if sleep is inad­e­quate and patients suf­fer from insom­nia, then they sim­ply do not have the desire to com­mu­ni­cate, make new acquain­tances, rela­tion­ships. In turn, peo­ple around per­ceive a sleepy per­son as less attrac­tive, which fur­ther increas­es social iso­la­tion. Thus a vicious cir­cle is formed.

How to deal with insomnia?

Sleep dis­tur­bances, insom­nia — a rea­son to vis­it a doc­tor, because it is pos­si­ble that there are some seri­ous rea­sons for its for­ma­tion. If these were not iden­ti­fied after the exam­i­na­tion, the doc­tor will give appro­pri­ate rec­om­men­da­tions.

The first thing to start with is to go to bed only when you want to sleep. Just stay­ing in bed and wait­ing for sleep to come is not a good idea. In addi­tion, if sleep does not come with­in 15–20 min­utes, you need to get out of bed and do some busi­ness.

The sec­ond thing you need to pay atten­tion to is the time of going to bed. It is real­ly best for larks to go to bed ear­ly, but for owls, you need to stick to your sched­ule. Noth­ing good will come of try­ing to turn a lark into an owl. The pro­duc­tion of hor­mones that occurs dur­ing sleep does not depend on the time when a per­son falls asleep, but to a greater extent on sleep cycles.

Third­ly, you can use mod­ern gad­gets and tech­nolo­gies that not only con­trol sleep, but also help you learn to fall asleep on time and wake up feel­ing rest­ed.

Also, the doc­tor may advise you to read a bor­ing book at night, which makes you sleepy. Some note that dime nov­els can help in this mat­ter, in which there is not much plot, and it makes no sense to delve into what is hap­pen­ing, but they catch up with sleep.


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