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Study says losing sleep can lead to brain damage

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If you suffer from a sleepless night there's really no way you can make up those lost hours of sleep. But sleep isn't the only thing you lose. A new study warns you are losing brain cells too.

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience Tuesday claims that chronic sleep loss can lead to a permanent loss of brain cells.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine studied lab mice while rotating them through periods of rest, short and extended wakefulness, in an attempt to mimic the day-to-day sleep patterns of shift workers. After three days of the study, the researchers found that the mice underwent an increased death of brain cells and lost 25 percent of the neurons essential for “alertness and optimal cognition." The study says this same result could happen in humans.

Dr. Sigrid Veasey, associate professor of Medicine at UPenn and part of the research team says, “In general, we’ve always assumed full recovery of cognition following short- and long-term sleep loss. But some of the research in humans has shown that attention span and several other aspects of cognition may not normalize even with three days of recovery sleep, raising the question of lasting injury in the brain.”

Of course more research will be done to determine if humans are susceptible to the observed brain damage through extended periods of wakefulness, and if brain damage could be linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

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