Feeling a tad grouchy are we? Hmm...
Sure, it could be any number of things. The fact the car was low on gas when you were already running late. Or, the fact you sped off without retrieving your morning coffee from the roof of the car. Or, the giant coffee stain now covering a third of your newly washed auto. Or...
It could be a bad night's sleep.
Researchers at the University of California Berkeley say the lack of sleep has numerous negative effects. Among them, of course, is the aforementioned bad mood. But, that may be the least serious impact of sleep deprivation.
"It's almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses," said Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory and senior author of the study.
The study revealed that a lack of sleep heightens activity in the part of the brain governing anxiety, depression, and psychiatric disorders. The amygdala, which controls the fight-or-flight reflex, becomes hyperactive during a sleep-deprived episode, and consequently overrides the calming, rational effect of the pre-frontal cortex. The result is a hyper active emotional state, characterized by broad mood swings.
"The emotional centers of the brain were over 60 percent more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation than in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep," Walker said.
It's hoped further study will shed light on the role of sleep deprivation in psychiatric conditions. Previous research has implicated sleep deprivation as being a component of virtually all psychiatric disorders.
So, next time it feels like life is attacking you from all sides, fight back with your newfound knowledge. Curl up with a good book, drift gently off, and sleep tight...To read more about the study, see this from UCBerkeleyNews. To learn more about sleep disorders, see this from the National Sleep Foundation.