Sleep Deprivation Disconnects Your Brain from Your Heart

If you find yourself having communication problems – you might be sleep deprived.

A UC Berkeley study shows that sleep deprivation prevents you from reading facial expressions accurately. Facial expressions are one the most important aspects of non-verbal communication. This means that lack of sleep can have serious consequences, such as not noticing that a child is sick or in pain, or that a potential mugger or violent predator is approaching.

According to the study author, “Recognizing the emotional expressions of someone else changes everything about whether or not you decide to interact with them, and in return, whether they interact with you.” You can read more in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Considering that two-thirds of the industrialized world population does not get quality sleep; it’s safe to say we all have communication problems!

Study Design

For the experiment, 18 healthy young adults viewed 70 facial expressions that ranged from friendly to threatening, once after a full night of sleep, and once after 24 hours of being awake. Researchers scanned participants’ brains and measured their heart rates as they looked at the series of visages.

Brain scans as they carried out these tasks – generated through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) – revealed that the sleep-deprived brains could not distinguish between threatening and friendly faces, specifically in the emotion-sensing regions of the brain’s anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex.

Additionally, the heart rates of sleep-deprived study participants did not respond normally to threatening or friendly facial expressions. Moreover, researchers found a disconnection in the neural link between the brain and heart that typically enables the body to sense distress signals.

“Sleep deprivation appears to dislocate the body from the brain,” said lead study author, Matthew Walker. “You can’t follow your heart.”

Sleep Deprivation Literally Blocks the Brain from the Body

As a consequence, study participants interpreted more faces, even the friendly or neutral ones, as threatening when sleep-deprived.

“They failed our emotional Rorschach test,” Walker said. “Insufficient sleep removes the rose tint to our emotional world, causing an overestimation of threat. This may explain why people who report getting too little sleep are less social and more lonely.”

On a more positive note, researchers recorded the electrical brain activity of the participants during their full night of sleep, and found that their quality of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or dream sleep correlated with their ability to accurately read facial expressions. Previous research by Walker has found that REM sleep serves to reduce stress neurochemicals and soften painful memories.

“The better the quality of dream sleep, the more accurate the brain and body was at differentiating between facial expressions,” Walker said. “Dream sleep appears to reset the magnetic north of our emotional compass. This study provides yet more proof of our essential need for sleep.”

Chiropractic can Improve Sleep Quality

Studies state that when the body’s central circadian rhythms are disturbed, it results in increased levels of cortisol aka the stress hormone. When the cortisol levels remain high for a prolonged period, it reduces the density of the bones and the muscle mass, weakens the immune system, accumulates fat in the abdomen area, and impacts the functioning of the thyroid gland. All of these lead to poor health and back pain! Sometimes insomnia can also lead to mental disorders.

Although there are many medications available in the market, those that claim to solve the sleep disorders do not help to any great extent. These pills cause side effects and can also lead to cancer and heart attacks if used for too long. To have a peaceful sleep, you need to treat the actual cause of the problem from its roots. A good chiropractor will investigate the actual cause of the problem in depth and correct it.

Chiropractic care and  adjustments will help you to relax. It also improves the blood flow in the nervous system and corrects any misalignments, or sublaxations in the spine. These subluxations compress the nerves and cause lack of communication between the spine and the brain. These subluxations lead to a process called stress response which puts the body out of balance and do not let the body rest. A well trained chiropractor will adjust these subluxations with safe and careful techniques to get your body to function normally.

Along with chiropractic care, insomnia and sleep issues can be improved with significant changes in your lifestyle. The changes include the following:

  • Limited intake of caffeine
  • Eating dinner before six in the evening
  • Avoiding television and computer time an hour before bed
  • Staying active by doing regular exercises (not too close to bedtime)
  • Avoiding excess alcohol
  • Investing in a good supportive mattress and pillow that support your spine
  • And most importantly setting a daily routine

Regular chiropractic care can address and solve several problems that may be causing sleepless nights, such as back pain, breathing problems, and restless leg syndrome. Many people have felt that their sleep has improved after getting regular wellness adjustments. Regular chiropractic care can improve the symptoms and conditions of insomnia patients and helps them sleep better thus improving the quality of their day to day life. Plus, chiropractic care is much safer than most prescription sleep aids.

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