Sleep deprivation to the brain is the equivalent of being drunkDean Drobot/Shutterstock
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults to get seven to nine hours of sleep, but many Americans are going without that much. The problem is, being sleep deprived can lead to mental function that’s equal to being intoxicated. “In repeated studies, after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, cognitive functioning and response speed were equivalent or worse than someone with a blood alcohol content [BAC] of five percent,” Dr. Shane says. “After 24 hours without sleep, performance indicators were equivalent to a BAC of 10 percent.” All states have a legal limit of eight percent, with commercial drivers held to four percent. The National Institute of Medicine estimates drowsy driving is responsible for 20 percent of car crashes. And you don’t need to be up for 24 hours straight for this effect—other research has shown that the cumulative effect of consistently getting six hours or fewer can lead to similar results. Check out these other 13 scary things that happen when you don’t have enough sleep.
Dreams have meaningmarina shin/Shutterstock
Why we dream has been the source of speculation for centuries. Although we’re not sure, many scientists now think dreams help us process emotions and events that happen during our waking hours. “The entire brain is active during dreams—the visual cortex, which creates images, and the limbic system, which deals with emotions, are especially active during dreams,” Dr. Shane says. Brain activity during dreaming increases to the same level as when we are awake, he says, and can be stimulated by what you experienced during the day. “Dreams then make associations with other experiences you have had, helping you integrate what you learned during the day,” Dr. Shane says. “Dreams can help you solve problems and increase your ability to cope with struggles and stress.” In addition, the freedom of control in dreams allows them to be more creative than waking thoughts. Learn why dreaming could ward off dementia.
Sex on the brain is a good thinglimonstrik/Shutterstock
As if you needed another excuse to get it on, sex may actually help your brain think better as you age. Animal research has shown that sexual activity improved mental performance and the production of new cells in the area of the brain responsible for memory. A new study in humans found that older adults who were sexually active scored better on cognitive tests than those who weren’t. Sex may also reduce anxiety and depression, and help you sleep, which benefits brain health as well, and this recent study showed that having sex once a week can even help you live longer. Find out why sex could make you smarter, too.