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)