It’s no secret that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on the brain, but why? That’s what this research wanted to find out, and to do so, the study authors observed the brain activity and neural connections of participants who had experienced overnight sleep deprivation, versus those who’d had a sufficient night’s sleep.
Based on their observations, not only is brain activation impacted by sleep deprivation, but neural connections are affected as well—and not for the better, as you might imagine. Further, both of those brain functions play a big role in cognition and memory.
For instance, when we sleep, fresh memories from the previous day are stored via strengthened neural connections. (This is known as neuroplasticity.) So essentially, inadequate sleep equals fewer and/or weaker encoded memories.
As the study authors write, “Our data indicate that upscaled brain excitability and altered plasticity, due to sleep deprivation, are associated with impaired cognitive performance,” adding that sleep hygiene could play a role in both disease prevention and improved cognition.