Yet Another Reason to Catch Some Zzzzzs
Not getting enough sleep can actually cause brain damage.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and China's Peking University found that prolonged periods without sleep caused serious damage in mice. They subjected mice to a rotating sleep routine, similar to that of a human shift worker's routine, complete with varied periods of normal rest, short bursts of wakefulness, and long periods without sleep. Researchers focused on the effects of the sleep patterns on the brain's locus coeruleus neurons, which handle a slew of important neurological functions, including stuff like attention and wakefulness, as well as memory, emotional responses and cognitive function.
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In every case, mice functioned well through periods of short-term sleep deprivation, but started to experience diminished levels of functioning after long periods of wakefulness. Mice lost around 25 percent of their locus coeruleus neurons after just a few days on a sleep-deprived schedule. A recent study done in Sweden studying actual human sleep conditions suggests that a similar mechanism could occur in human brains.
The upshot? Get your rest, because you're killing your brain cells by skipping out. [Huffington Post]