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Can lack of sleep cause brain damage?

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Did you get a full night’s sleep last night? Let’s hope so. Lack of sleep can cause everything from weight gain to increasing your chances for a heart attack, but can it potentially also cause brain damage? A new research study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that extended periods of sleeplessness can lead to permanent brain damage. The study found that inconsistent sleep could actually be hurting your brain and catnaps or sleeping in on the weekends won’t reverse the damage.

“This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons,” says neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey from the University of Pennsylvania. She says although many would believe that trying to make up for your “sleep debt” will help, it turns out that it won’t fix the damage already done to your brain.

Veasey and her colleagues used a mouse model and put them through a sleep schedule comparable to that of human shift workers. The mice could only sleep for short periods inconsistently for several days. They found that brief periods of sleep caused massive brain damage in the mice causing them to lose 25% of their neurons in a part of the brain responsible for alertness and cognitive function.

The researchers believe that extended periods of wakefulness can actually kill the neurons in the brain that are directly related to your mood, which could also cause a risk of depression. Not getting your beauty rest can also bring additional stress into your life, learn more about this here. Keep in mind that the seldom all-nighter won’t have long-term effects, but consistent lack of sleep will cause lasting injury to the brain.

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