Feeling Burned Out? How Sleep Affects Your Brain and Prevents Burnout

Neal Tucker

4 min read Body & Mind

Feeling Burned Out? How Sleep Affects Your Brain and Prevents Burnout


Skimping on sleep can result in more than just bags under your eyes. Our brain can’t function properly if we’re not getting enough rest. Over time, a regular sleep deficit will start to add up, resulting in a You that is running at way less than 100%. 

We've all been there. 

Working late as that project deadline looms... Running through the details for a big presentation... Cramming for a test... Tending to the needs of your sick kid... 

As your head finally hits the pillow, you catch the time and realize with a sinking feeling that you're facing a long, painful day when your alarm goes off in the morning. 

Life happens, and so does the occasional late night. But regularly skimping on sleep can result in more than just bags under your eyes. It also has a serious effect on your brain. 


Why Do Brains Need Sleep?

Doing anything important when you're impaired in some way is never going to be a good idea. Most of us are smart enough to recognize that driving under the influence is just way too risky. But we'll carry on with our day if we haven't had enough sleep, even though operating our body when we’re running on empty is asking for trouble. 

Psychologists and cognitive scientists haven’t totally pinned down why we sleep. But they do mostly agree on one thing: without enough sleep, our brains suffer — a lot.

While we're out like a light, our body is halted in a state similar to paralysis. Our brain, however, is still super active:

  • Storing away the day's memories
  • Encoding little snippets and filing these away for later use
  • Working furiously to command hormone-producing glands to repair the body
  • Replace what was depleted and get us ready for the next day

All this really is happening in our gray matter during sleeping hours, so without this valuable rehab time our brains aren’t going to be able to perform at full capacity the next day.


How Does Lack of Sleep Affect My Brain?

At the more extreme end of sleep deprivation, a certain cognitive dysfunction sets in, leaving you with slower reaction times, heightened stress, and even trouble solving simple problems. But even coming up just a little short on your zzzz's can leave you feeling in a bit of a daze, muddling through your tasks and ready to switch off. 

Over time, a regular sleep deficit will start to add up, resulting in a version of yourself that's running at way less than 100% — and even in danger of burning out.

Navigating this complex world of ours requires a fully functioning brain. You are engaged in any number of complex situations during the day, from the slog of a busy schedule to maintaining relationships with friends and family. If you aren't getting enough sleep, your brain is going to struggle to keep up with its many important jobs. 

Considering that our brains control nearly every aspect of our existence — from our sense of self, to what our bodies are doing, to how we experience life around us — losing this vital rest period can have a substantial trickle-down effect, as everything goes a little on the fritz, one frayed wire at a time.


What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “You snooze, you lose.” As far as your health is concerned, though, it’s the other way around: “You snooze, you win!”

It’s when you don’t snooze that you can notice the problems creeping in:


  • You feel blue
    A tired brain has been shown to produce more serotonin, the same chemical that appears in higher levels with folks suffering from depression.

  • You lose brain cells
    While the brain is active during sleep, some cells and nerves are at rest. Without this rest, these cells and nerves can die off.

  • You become irrational
    Your brain starts to struggle to regulate the flow of chemicals that keep you on an even keel. Pair this with the heightened stress that comes with excess tiredness and you might be a bit of a mess.

  • You are distracted
    Look out! Lack of sleep can result in a busy prefrontal cortex, which drastically slows down your reaction times. 


What can you do to improve your sleep? 

OK, you get it — you need to sleep. Your brain is counting on it. But sometimes, it's just too hard to avoid an occasional late night. Even so, if you're often struggling to get enough sleep, take a good look at what might be in your way:

  • Feeling stressed or anxious? Consider some relaxation techniques to wind you down at night. 
  • Too busy for bed? Check out some time management tips and look at your routine to see what needs to change. 
  • Sneaking unhealthy snacks? Look at your overall diet and eating patterns and make some changes.
  • Too uncomfortable to settle? Find an organic mattress that's going to promote healthy sleep and feel great to snuggle down on. (You’re in luck! It just so happens we can help you out with this one…) 

There are many simple daily habits that can help to prime your body and mind for a peaceful night. Even taken one at a time, you can reap the benefits with more shut-eye, leaving your brain sharp and ready for action. 

Here at Sleep365 we're all about sharing the wonderful benefits of good sleep, with mattresses and bedding that don't just feel great, but are healthier for you and kinder to our planet. Take a look at our organic mattresses and organic bedding to find out more. Because what you sleep on and how it's made truly matters.



Neal Tucker

Neal Tucker is a writer living in Los Angeles. Learn more about him at nealtuckercopy.com.

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