For many decades, scientists have stressed the importance of a good night’s rest. People today find it harder than ever to accomplish this task, however. Long work hours, electronic distractions, taking care of young children and many more factors contribute to the lack of sleep millions of Americans experience daily. Research has shown that a lack of sleep can lead to obesity and other conditions, such as increased stress and inattentiveness. Current research now suggests that a loss of sleep can lead to a loss of brain cells and irreversible injury in the brain, according to CNN.
A new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience reveals that prolonged lack of sleep leads to considerable loss of brain cells in mice. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania say that humans should try to catch up on missed sleep if the same is true for humans.
The study attempted to replicate the same kind of sleep deprivation facing humans. The researchers made the mice follow sleep patterns “similar to those followed by night workers – three days of night shifts with only four to five hours sleep in 24 hours,” according to BBC News. Specific cells that help keep the brains of the mice alert were analyzed and assessed. The researchers found that approximately 25 percent of the cells in the brain stems of the mice were lost.
The findings are the first evidence revealing how lack of sleep can lead to irreversible brain damage. The researchers have yet to determine whether the study’s findings apply with equal force to humans. To resolve this issue, the next step will be to examine deceased shift workers’ brains to look for evidence of brain cell loss.