ArticlesBrain Health

Sleeplessness Can Be Fatal

Thinking back to your college years, have you ever had to take an overnighter due to the coming exam the next day? I know I have. I wasn’t really the studying type, and was more of the last-minute-cram-everything-that-you-can type. I probably lost so many hours of sleep during finals week. However, now that I think about it, I probably still do! Finishing deadlines at work, and having to stay up all night to finish research projects. Probably, a lot of you do too!

However, a new discovery in neuroscience has come to light that might deter you from pulling an overnighter ever again. According to the new findings in Sweden, one sleepless night can create changes to the brain that are much similar to those occurring due to a mild concussion.

The study in Sweden involved 15 healthy college students. One night they were allowed 8 hours of sleep in the lab, while on another, there was total sleep deprivation. The students were allowed to do whatever they wanted as long as they stayed awake.

The brains of these students were monitored with neurochemical markers, and after the study ended, it was found that brain cell damage occurred. In fact, the neurochemical markers showed that some cells were damaged up 20% compared to when the students had their 8 hours of sleep.

It’s been long known that sleep is important for daily functioning, but the reasons behind this has always been speculated with different scientists giving different claims. In this study, they’ve concluded:

It’s been long established that dysfunctional sleep can result into a variety of health problems. However, we’ve noticed that it seems like the brain is suffering and we’re really injuring our brain by not getting enough sleep – so much that it’s comparable to a mild concussion.

Chris Winter, M.D., Medical Director,

Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center

They explained that the lymphatic system is also 10 times more active during sleep, and aids in the disposal of toxins in the brain. When it doesn’t get to do its job, the brain suffers.

The good news, though, is that through latest advances in neuroscience and neuroplasticity, your brain is able to bounce back from the overnighter every now and then – as long as you’re not doing this on a regular basis.

So it’s not really something to be proud of when you aren’t getting the sleep that you need – saying “hey guys, you know what? I’m so high on caffeine right now from my all nighter!” isn’t something to brag about. Get your 6-8 hours of sleep if you’re really serious about staying healthy and taking care about your brain and body.

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