Sleep. It's something we all do and yet its importance doesn't seem to be stressed enough when it comes to health and well-being. We've all trudged through a day (or days) after a poor night of rest and know how it feels to struggle through daily tasks with brain fog, fatigue or sleepiness, irritability and just overall feeling off. Despite this, many people often trade sleep for more time to do activities such as work, socialize, study, etc. But sleep is crucial to keep up with day-to-day life. It really comes down to sleep and the impact it has on our brain,  everything from motor function (movement) to physiology (think: hormones) to cognition. So, let's jump into it.

Fun fact: most people spend around one third of their lives asleep!

Despite sleep being such a time-consuming and large part of our lives, there is still lots of research that needs to be done to fully understand the impact and importance of sleep on our brain.

Not enough sleep has a negative impact on focus and attention.

Lack of sleep can have a significant effect on the body. It can cause a decrease in response speed as well as decreased or unpredictable alertness, attention and vigilance. During a normal day, alertness and attention remain mainly stable with some changes throughout the day. However, when someone begins to stay awake for longer periods of time (usually more than 16 hours), that person will begin to show a significant decrease in reaction time and a worsening of psychomotor action (active thinking that causes physical action). The ability to stay focused for a long period of time also begins to decrease.

Sleep or (lack thereof) also impacts our sensory perception.

When we talk about sensory perception, we mean the different senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. In general, people who are well rested have faster and more accurate responses to stimuli that affects our senses. For example, those who are well rested demonstrate better visuospatial perception (the ability to process visual information about where objects are in space) than those who are sleep deprived. Similarly, those who get enough sleep have a faster response to sounds than those who are sleep deprived. Well rested individuals have a greater pain tolerance than those who are not. Again, well rested people are able to better identify smells compared to sleep deprived people. There is even evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation can cause a decrease sensitivity to sour, salty and sweet tastes! The moral of the story here: sleep can have a big impact on our senses.

Chronic lack of sleep can also impact day-to-day functions.

When we think of lack of sleep affecting our ability to do our day-to-day tasks, we might think that one night of getting too few hours is the main problem. And while intense sleep deprivation definitely impacts our brain and its function, restricting sleep (fewer hours of sleep per night than recommended) also has a significant impact. A study investigated the effect chronic sleep restriction on behaviour in 48 adults. Sleep periods were restricted to 8 hours, 6 hours, or 4 hours over 14 consecutive days. Cognitive performance in those restricted to 6 or 4 hours of sleep per night declined over the 14 days, whereas those who got 8 hours of sleep every night remained consistent in their cognitive performance. Concentration and alertness decreased in people only getting 6 or 4 hours of sleep per night, as did their response times. What's even more interesting? The participants who had fewer hours of sleep every night did not notice the extent to which their cognitive abilities had begun to decline!

Does collagen have anything to do with sleep?

You may be wondering, is there any way that collagen is related to sleep? Well, it may come as a surprise, but yes, there is a relation! As with any protein, collagen is comprised of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. One amino acid that is found in collagen is glycine. Now this is where it gets interesting. Glycine plays a role in our nervous system, which is affected as we get ready to go to sleep. As we begin to get sleepy, certain parts of our brain will begin to send signals to other parts of the body through the nervous system, indicating that it is time to go to sleep. These signals will dampen or switch off activity that is related to being awake (arousal) and amplify or switch on activity related to sleep and relaxation. Some of these responses include decreasing body temperature and increasing muscle relaxation. Because glycine affects our nervous system, studies have been done to investigate the effect of glycine on sleep. In fact, a study investigated the effect of glycine ingestion before bed on the quality of sleep. Both men and women between the ages of 30-57 were included in this placebo-controlled trial. At the end of the study the participants were asked a questionnaire about their sleep experience, and the researchers found that glycine improved sleep quality and efficacy. This means that not only did the participants taking glycine wake up feeling more rested, but they also were able to fall asleep faster when in bed.

The takeaway?

Sufficient sleep is crucial for everyday functioning because it has such a big impact on our brain and all of the things it does for us. It plays a role in all different aspects of our day-to-day behaviour including our senses, our emotions and our cognition. Chronic lack of sleep affects so much of our brain function, so make sure to get a solid night of rest every night. Collagen can also potentially play a role in sleep as it contains an amino acid crucial to our nervous system. Who knows, maybe adding collagen into your nightly routine might help you get a better night of sleep! Sources
  1. Killgore, W. D. S. (2010). Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. In G. A. Kerkhof & H. P. A. van Dongen (Eds.), Progress in Brain Research (Vol. 185, pp. 105-129). Elsevier.
  2. Van Dongen, H. P. A., Maislin, G., Mullington, J. M., & Dinges, D. F. (2003). The cumulative cost of additional wakefulness: Dose-response effects on neurobehavioral functions and sleep physiology from chronic sleep restriction and total sleep deprivation. Sleep, 26(2), 117-126.
  3. Yamadera, W., Inagawa, K., Chiba, S., Bannai, M., Takahashi, M., & Nakayama, K. (2007). Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5(2), 126-131.
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