Getting enough sleep is as important as clean air and plenty of food and water to our health and well-being. You need adequate sleep nightly to remain mentally sharp.
Continued sleep deprivation and untreated sleep disorders can cause problems with memory, learning, and focus. In fact, many of the symptoms of ADD and ADHD are the same symptoms that people who are sleep deprived experience.
In adults, the symptoms of sleep deprivation resemble those of adult ADD, including:
- Difficulty focusing
- Lack of concentration
- Problems paying attention
- Short attention span
- Lack of impulse control
- Mood swings
- Learning difficulties
- Risky behavior
In children, the symptoms of sleep deprivation resemble those of ADHD, including:
- Trouble focusing
- Trouble sitting still
- Trouble getting along with peers
- Hyper, moody, or obstinate behaviors
How Sleep Affects Your Brain
Getting quality sleep plays an important role in how your brain functions. When you are sleeping, your brain is still working away, storing away memories and important information that you learned during the day. While you sleep your brain is also removing “waste products” from its cells so you can think clearly the following day.
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation or disorders will often impair the parts of your brain that are responsible for controlling behavior and cognitive abilities. The studies show that when a person is sleep deprived they have a reduced metabolism and reduced blood flow to several areas of the brain. It is the reduction in blood flow and metabolism that have been linked to the above symptoms of sleep deprivation that imitate ADD and ADHD.
When you fail to get the appropriate amount of sleep (between 7-9 hours for adults), your brain suffers the consequences.
Better Sleep to Help You Regain Your Focus
To help determine if your attention problems are associated with sleep issues, answer the following questions:
- Do you find it difficult to stay awake when you are sitting still, watching TV or reading?
- Are you finding it difficult to concentrate on tasks?
- Are you having trouble controlling your emotions and/or impulses?
- Do you struggle to remember important information?
- Do you struggle to learn and retain new information?
- Do you find it difficult to remain organized?
- Do you have trouble accomplishing everyday tasks?
- Are you so tired throughout the day that you can’t really think of anything but sleep?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from focus and memory issues because of a sleep-related problem. You need to make an appointment with your physician so that they may evaluate your symptoms. They can help you determine if making an appointment with one of the Valley Sleep Center’s board-certified sleep physicians for a consultation and/or sleep study is the next step you should take.
Until your appointment, there are things that you can do to help give your brain an opportunity to achieve the quality and restorative sleep it craves.
- Set a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night, even on weekends. Remember that most adults will need around eight hours of sleep to perform at normal levels. If you cut sleep time to work longer hours or watch movies, you need to stop. You need to make sleep a priority so that your brain will function appropriately.
- Pay attention to your snoring and/or other breathing disruptions. If you have been told that you snore loudly more than two nights a week or that you stop breathing periodically at night, then you need to see a doctor and be tested for sleep apnea. Even if you don’t realize it, sleep apnea severely impacts the quality of sleep you get at night, negatively impacting your attention and focus the following day.
- When you are not physically active enough it affects your body’s desire for sleep. The more physically active you are, the more energy your body can burn off in the day, which makes sleep come easier at night.
- Watch your diet. Eating too much junk food and consuming too much caffeine negatively impacts your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
- Avoid blue light before bed. Electronic devices such as TV’s, cell phones, tablets, and computers all emit a blue light that negatively affects sleep. The blue light registers as daylight in the brain signaling to the circadian rhythm that it is time to be awake. They can also be very stimulating and make it difficult for your brain to wind down and fall asleep. Try reading a physical book (not one that is read from a screen), going for a short walk, or taking a bubble bath to help you unwind and sleep.
If you are struggling to focus and suffering from memory deficits it is critical to learn if a sleep disorder is the cause. You may benefit from a sleep consultation with Valley Sleep Center. Call 480.830.3900 to schedule an appointment at one of our five convenient Valley locations today.