Attention, Workaholics: All-Nighters Aren't Good for Your Brain
That, at least, is the conclusion of a study recently published in the Swedish journal Sleep.
How Sleep Deprivation Hurts Your Brain
In the study, the researchers measured the blood levels of specific proteins in 15 healthy young men under two radically different sleep circumstances. In the first circumstance, the 15 men slept eight hours (from 10:30pm to 6:30am) in a sleep lab. In the second circumstance, they experienced what the researchers call TSD (Total Sleep Deprivation): An all-nighter, but not really a stressful one. The 15 men were not burning the midnight oil on a VC-worthy business plan or a web site's user experience. Nope. They were, however, "kept awake all night playing board games and watching movies," reports the Boston Globe.
Still, the leisurely all-nighter caused a 20 percent increase in concentrations of proteins that are often produced after brain injuries, including concussions. To the researchers, this increase--while well short of what would happen after a concussion--was still noteworthy. "With this finding in mind, one could speculate that the sleep loss-induced rise in circulating levels of [these proteins] in our study may be a result of increased neuronal damage," said study leader Christian Benedict, an associate professor of neuroscience at Uppsala University in Sweden, in the Globe.
How to Get Eight Hours of Sleep
Obviously, the takeaway here--get more sleep--is easier said than done. Peter Shallard, a psychologist who specializes in working with entrepreneurs, has written a terrific blog post filled with tips to help you get better at getting to bed. Here are three of them:
1. Find a way to record last minute "OMG-DO-NOT-FORGET-THIS" thoughts. "The secret," writes Shallard, "is to keep a notebook beside your bed. When you can't sleep because of good idea overload, just write stuff down until there's literally nothing on your mind that isn't on the page. Works for anxiety-inducing ideas too."
2. Leave the iPhone in another room. If your phone's out of reach, you can avoid the temptation to send and respond to messages, even if you think they're urgent. How can you ensure that your phone's out of reach during bedtime hours? Shallard suggests keeping the charger in another room. And one more step: Turn your phone off. This extra barrier can prevent you from entering the room "just to check" if any urgent messages have come in.
3. Wind down before bed. "Sleep and Business are two very different train tracks and your unconscious mind needs time and space to switch between the two," he writes. The tips: "Start dimming the lights 45 mins before bed. Switch off all electronics at the 30-minute mark. Talk to your family. Read fiction."