by Ryan Lawrence
A frustrating problem that plagues millions of Americans, insomnia has become a widespread issue. In fact, sleep deprivation affects so many people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have named it a public health epidemic. At its worst, insomnia promotes fatigue, drowsiness and a myriad of health problems. That said, in certain instances, it can also offer some interesting benefits.
Relief from Depression
You might think that poor sleep would make people more depressed; however, numerous studies suggest otherwise. In fact, research has shown that sleep deprivation can actually alleviate symptoms of major depression, even causing suicidal people to forget their intentions at least for a while. Sadly, these effects appear to last only a few hours, making intentional sleep deprivation a poor option when it comes to treating chronic depression. That said, the odd relationship between sleep deprivation and mood has given scientists new insights on how and why we get depressed in the first place.
Although insufficient sleep has been linked to memory difficulties; in one weird way, it can actually enhance our abilities to remember new information. Researchers out of the University of California, Riverside, recently found that people who take Ambien to combat insomnia find it easier to convert short-term memories into long-term ones. That said, according to sleep expert Dr. Donna Blair, in the end, the risks probably outweigh the benefits.
“Insufficient sleep has been linked to short-term memory problems as well as an increased risk of dementia,” she said. “Sleep aids such as Ambien may have some noteworthy benefits; however, they also come with some pretty frightening side-effects. What’s more, they aren’t suited for people who owe their sleep difficulties to disorders such as sleep apnea, which causes breathing disruptions that make sufferers wake up gasping for breath.”
The University of California researchers gave a similar assessment when reporting their study by clearly asserting that they do not recommend Ambien as a memory aid due to its many side-effects; however, the memory benefits appear to be there for traditional insomniacs who can tolerate the drug.
A noted researcher out of the Yale University School of Medicine found that sleep deprivation after a traumatic experience reduced the likelihood of posttraumatic stress disorder. While it’s not clear why this might occur, it could have something to do with memory issues linked with insufficient sleep. Whatever the relationship, the study was so compelling, the researchers suggest it may convince medical professionals to begin using sleep deprivation to treat serious cases of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Only Slight Benefits
While inadequate sleep may offer a few benefits; they don’t compare to the myriad of problems associated with sleep deprivation. Linked with serious diseases, such as cancer, dementia, cardiovascular disease and more, insufficient sleep can cause big problems when it persists for long periods of time. So, if you continuously suffer from sleep difficulties, make lifestyle changes that promote better sleep and seek treatment for any sort of disorder that may ultimately put you in harm’s way.
Image Credit: Mark Sebastian