Cognitive impairment means your mind is not firing on all cylinders. Memory, concentration, and attention problems are the most common impairments. Most problematic sleepers suffer from mild, moderate, or severe impairment—“brain strain, drain, or pain.” When sleep quality is compromised, deep, restorative, or consolidating sleep is no longer experienced, and the ensuing sleep fragmentation leads to a form of brain damage.
Yes, brain damage!
In particular, your memory, concentration, and attention span are no longer sustained at optimal levels. Some impairments are irreversible, caused by severe sleep fragmentation as well as drops in oxygen levels during sleep. Some impairment is caused by fatigue and sleepiness, which may be reversible with proper treatment. Much of this impairment is mistaken for aging or medical or psychiatric diseases.
What’s most intriguing about brain strain-drain-pain is that you cannot spot the thing you got! Which, as you are about to learn is why cognitive impairment is the most insidious of all barriers blocking you from sound sleep.
The very disease that causes your suffering cripples your ability to see the disease you are suffering from and disables your ability to measure the suffering it causes.
How so? Simply, we all become accustomed to the tools in our own toolbox.
They may be new and sharp when you first use them, but sooner or later they become old and dull. Over time, we may not spot these changes because they occur gradually. Even when your tools are not performing well, it is more common to imagine they are working just fine. It’s easier, almost natural to see things unchanged instead of questioning one’s capacity.
Memory, concentration, and attention are essential tools to make good decisions and proper judgments to live a balanced and prosperous life. When these mental faculties begin to wear out, you lose some capacity to form solid judgments, make sound decisions, and perceive things accurately, including, as a great example, your capacity to distinguish between the natural effects of aging and the impact of poor sleep quality on your mind.
As brain strain-drain-pain sets in, it intensifies the human tendency to traverse life’s highways on cruise control, as if you were sleep-driving your way through life. When you function in this manner, you find yourself heading down the same road, time and again, without paying much attention to the potholes, or worse, the ditch along the side of the roadway. And, because the human mind is inclined to slip into a rut from time to time, once the wheels start spinning, it is difficult to gain traction to pull your mind out of it.
If you can learn to recognize the impact of sleep disorders on your mind and much of your mental functioning, you will move forward much faster in any treatment program you embark upon.