Losing Sleep? You Could Be Losing Brain Cells Too
Chronic lack of sleep may be much more serious than we realize, leading to an irreversible loss of brain cells.
It is commonly thought that chronically sleep-deprived individuals, such as 3rd shift workers, could simply catch up on lost sleep, repaying one’s “sleep debt” without much long-term consequence.
In this study, researchers determined that extended wakefulness might result in losing or injuring neurons that are crucial for thinking and alertness.
Using a mouse model, the sleep researchers mimicked a typical shift worker’s sleep pattern, carefully examining the periods following normal rest, short wakefulness, and extended wakefulness.
During short wakefulness periods, the mitochondria – the energy-producing powerhouse within cells – was able to adapt and protect the cells from death by producing more sirtuin type 3 (SirT3) protein. The increased SirT3 production did not occur during periods of extended wakefulness.
After several days of sleep deprivation, the mice lost 25% of neurons essential for alertness and cognition.
Sleep Deprivation is Hazardous to Your Health
Healthy sleep is absolutely essential to a brain healthy life. Sleep rejuvenates all the cells in your body, gives brain cells a chance to repair themselves, helps wash away toxins that build up during the day, and activates neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate due to inactivity.
Skimping on sleep can affect your health in more ways than you might imagine. When you don’t get enough sleep, you have overall decreased blood flow to your brain, which disrupts thinking, memory, and concentration.
Sleep deprivation has been associated with many health risks, including:
• Type 2 diabetes
• ADD (worsening of symptoms)
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Weight gain
• Poor lifestyle choices
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