When you don't get enough sleep, it's usually written all over your face. And, people will usually say something like, "You look tired." But, the negative effects of missed sleep may extend beyond under-eye bags. According to a new study, a continuous lack of shut-eye may result in actual loss of brain cells.
The study, which appeared in The Journal of Neuroscience, involved mice, but researchers think their findings could be indicative of similar patterns in human brains. A research team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine tested sleep patterns modeled after night-shift workers. For three days in a row, they gave the mice just four-to-five hours of sleep in a 24-hour time period. The result? A 25% loss of certain brain cells in a section of the brain stem. Whoa. Now, this obviously isn't a 25% loss of all brain cells, but it's still a frightening result.
Researchers say this is the first real evidence that sleep loss can cause irreversible damage to brain cells. The next step is a post-mortem examination of the brains of night-shift workers to see if these results might extend to humans. And, researchers believe will be possible to develop a medicine to actually protect brain cells from this damage. Until then, maybe take it easy on those late-night Netflix binges. (BBC)