Showing posts with label multiple sclerosis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label multiple sclerosis. Show all posts

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Losing Sleep Harms Your Brain

Study shows: If you don’t snooze, you lose.

We already know from earlier studies that that losing sleep reduces your IQ the following day (so much for the “cram for the exam” practice), and that important synaptic connections in children's brains strengthen during sleep, for instance. But two recent sleep research studies reveal that losing significant sleep, such as when pulling an all-nighter, can shrink your brain, according one to study, and create brain damage , according to the other.

Study #1 – Lasting brain damage from sleep deprivation

A 2013 Swedish study found that depriving yourself of a good night’s sleep can result in damage to brain tissue.  The alarming news is that it happens almost right away; losing even one night’s sleep can lead to the type of brain damage more commonly seen as a result of a head injury. 

The goal of the study was to determine if  “total sleep deprivation” – i.e., pulling an all-nighter – would negatively affect certain neurons or proteins in the human brain. To test this, the scientists took 15 young and healthy normal-weight men and subjected them to few hours of sleep deprivation, drawing blood samples before and after the sleep intervention (because high concentrations of certain markers in blood suggest possible neuron damage or impairment of the blood brain barrier function). The scientist also tested the same subjects’ blood after getting a full night’s sleep.

The researchers found that the critical markers – increased blood concentrations of molecules NSE and S-100B – were present the morning after the sleep deprivation. These chemicals are the same ones that would be elevated in blood levels after a brain damage event (though not to the same degree).

Their conclusion: lack of sleep can invoke brain-degenerative processes.

The theory the scientists postulated from the study is that the lack of sleep prevents the brain from performing normal toxin-clearing functions.  Though the study did not go deep enough to connect the sleep deprivation with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis, the scientists suspect that further studies based on their research may make such a connection.

Study #2 – Brain shrinkage from sleep deprivation

Sleep has been proposed to be "the brain's housekeeper," serving to repair and restore the brain. A 2014 study, reported in the September issue of Neurology®, supported that theory, showing that sleep difficulties may be linked to faster rates of decline in brain volume.

The study researchers examined 147 young and elder adults, seeking a link between sleep difficulties (having trouble falling/staying asleep at night), and brain volume. The participants underwent two MRI brain scans, an average of 3.5 years apart, before completing a questionnaire about their sleep habits. The assessment looked at how long people slept, how long it took them to fall asleep at night, use of sleeping medications, and other factors.

The study found that those with sleep difficulties showed a more rapid decline in brain volume over the course of the study in widespread brain regions, including within frontal, temporal and parietal areas, with results most pronounced in those over age 60.

"It is not yet known whether poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of changes in brain structure," said study author Claire E. Sexton, DPhil, with the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

"There are effective treatments for sleep problems, so future research needs to test whether improving people's quality of sleep could slow the rate of brain volume loss. If that is the case, improving people's sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health."

Are you getting enough sleep? 

To learn more about getting a healthy night’s sleep, check out these related sleep resources:
Make sure to pass this article on to anyone you know that uses all night exam-cram sessions so that they will be aware of the health risks.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer