• 19 days ago

    Can you repair your brain after a lifetime of sleep deprivation?

    Raised by a single mom with poor sleeping habits, I've been getting little sleep (3-6 hours) since I was in kinder. Now at 29, I find myself continuing these horrible sleeping patterns.

    My question is: is it possible to repair the damage that's being done to my brain? I've read countless articles about how you lose brain cells and all of the other ailments sleep deprivation leads to. I'm trying hard to overcome my unhealthy sleeping patterns, but this is me trying to unlearn a lifetime of terrible habits, and I clearly haven't overcome them yet.

    I already suffer from some things that I'm are most likely due to chronic sleep deprivation: memory loss, trouble recognizing people I've seen before, chronic worrying, depression, lack of motivation, irritability, heart problems (irregular heart beat), fatigue and emotional instability (I can sometimes cry at the drop of a hat, but suppress this in public and work spaces).

    Has anyone been on the same boat and turned their life around? Is it possible for me to repair my brain? I just need to know if there's some sort of hope, because as terrible as I am to myself, I want to do what I can to recover and restore. I'm so worried about irreversible brain damage and what that will do to my career and quality of life.

    I don't need convincing on how important sleep is and I'm aware that I have a problem that needs to change immediately. As much of a challenge as it's been, I intend to sleep better and practice meditation and other healthier habits more.

    In case other health factors need to be taken into consideration: I try to eat as many plant-based food as possible (but am not vegetarian), the only drug I occasionally do is marijuana (and that's 1-4 times a month if at all) through a hit or two of a pipe, I drink coffee to stay awake, although it doesn't help much, and I don't exercise enough, although that's also something I intend to change. I'm not overweight, although I'm not fit and have vitamin deficiency (D and B) and osteopenia.

    I know I'm a hot mess, but I'm determined to change. Thank you to anyone who took the time to read this as painful as it probably is to see how someone can be so self-sabotaging.

Responses

  • 19 days ago

    RE: Can you repair your brain after a lifetime of sleep deprivation?

    Hi, sorry to hear you're going through all this. But I think you may have hit the nail on the head with your "self-sabotoging" comment, though possibly in a way you didn't intend.

    First, how do you know you've gotten "3-6" hours of sleep since kindergarten? Were you tracking sleep back then? Do you now. When you examine this belief, I suspect you'll probably find it is inaccurate.

    It is quite common for insomniacs to have false and inaccurate beliefs about sleep, and to catastrophize those. This negativity in turn helps fuel and perpetuate the insomnia. It's a vicious circle.

    Second, how do you know your insomnia is causing all those various maladies you cite? How do you know it's not the other way 'round? It's true insomnia is associated with various issues, but the direction of causality is often difficult to determine.

    The bottom line is as you correct state your determination to make this better. And you can. I'd start with the preconceived idea that you've somehow done "irreparable damage" to yourself. That is more than likely a fact-free assertion you can safely let go. Doing so won't hurt you, it will in fact help you immensely.

    That brings us to exactly how you can make this better. Start with your lifestyle and habits. Are you drinking coffee after about mid-day? That'll keep you up. Getting exercise most every day is one of the very best things you can do to improve your sleep.

    If you haven't had a checkup recently that might be a good idea to either treat or rule out any underlying medical issues affecting your sleep. But most insomnia actually has nonmedical roots.

    Check out CBT sleep training methods designed for adults. CBT is the gold standard for treating insomnia. If you are the self-help type, you'll find much good info online. Otherwise ask your doc what CBT resources like counselors are available.