During stress, it is common to have a sleep disturbance.
We may have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Our brain needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to cognitive decline and also triples the risk of death from all causes. Getting less than six hours per night has been shown to decrease blood flow to the brain and impacts how we perform for days after.
There is a lot going on during sleep that explains this. Firstly, the brain washes itself with a fluid, only during sleep. This cleansing helps to get rid of toxins that have built up during the day. The other fascinating thing that happens is the brain prunes itself.
When we have the sensation that our brain is full, it actually is. The brain takes in a lot of information, and can become bogged down. During sleep there are little glial cells that go around cleaning up so that connections in your brain are more streamlined and efficient. This process makes more physical space to build new connections. The pruning happens to the underused areas and the focused areas get replenished…so be careful what you focus your attention on!