What’s happening in your brain when you are “losing your mind” from lack of sleep?


What’s happening in your brain when you are “losing your mind” from lack of sleep?

In: 3

This may not be correct but it’s how I see it, but someone else will gladly correct me if I’m wrong so no worries there:

“Reality” is a very controlled form of hallucination that your brain has. It has a bunch of crazy impulses going on all at the same time and it has a “best effort” approach to keep things tidy. As you get exhausted, there’s less effort put into controlling your perception or “reality”, which would lead to wacky things.

Not a sleep doctor here, but as I understand sleeping (and dreaming) has many a purpose one of which is to move memories around from different places in the brain that have different functions.

One of them for example is to move short term memories to long term memories (if at all important, judged in some fashion by dreaming).

So when you don’t do sleep, all of that and including the regulatory processes in the rest of your body doesn’t take place or if it does it doesn’t do it as well as it could’ve, and so your brain starts acting up: things are full, things are hot, things are misconnecting.

Just ask any parent when they had their first child about the effects of lack of sleep.


As sleep deprivation increases;

The perceptual system of the brain gradually weakens. Initially the visual network appears compromised. Eventually similar effects are observed in the sensory, auditory, and cognitive domains of the brain. This causes mental “lapses” and reductions in alertness. The brain increasingly focuses inwards, and is less constrained by the input from the external environment.

The biological mechanisms for the perceptual changes may relate to neurotransmitter action;

– Neuronal instability or neural transmission defect

(Inconsistent or overall reduction in synapses)

– Neurotransmission processes linked with occipital cortex disrupted

(Dopamine, Serotonin, and Noradrenaline are neurotransmitters that all play important roles in sleep and wakefulness processes and may contribute)

-Intracellular degeneration of related neurons

(process known as chromatolysis, due to fatigue and stress. Neurons vulnerable to damage are found in the regions responsible for sensory perception and executive functions)


There is still much to discover about the effects of sleep deprivation on the human brain, what we have now is a limited collection of theories and experiments gathered since the mid 1960s. Sleep deprivation experiments beyond 48 hours are now considered unethical, so we base a lot of our understanding on past findings.



Severe Sleep Deprivation Causes Hallucinations and a Gradual Progression Toward Psychosis With Increasing Time Awake