Get your Zzzs, nurture your brain

brainEarlier this year, I wrote about how naps can increase learning. As it turns out, naps—and sleep in general—are even more important than we thought. A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has found that a lack of sleep actually kills brain cells. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted the study using mice, Melanie Haiken reported on, but staying awake too long may have the same affect in humans. “We now have evidence that sleep loss can lead to irreversible injury,” says lead author Sigrid Veasey, MD, associate professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “This might be in a simple animal but this suggests to us that we are going to have to look very carefully in humans.” The researchers found that staying awake for long periods of time damages a type of brain cell called locus ceruleus (LC) neurons, which play an important role in keeping us alert and awake. Looking at the brains of mice subjected to sleep conditions similar to late night or shift workers, the researchers found that disrupted circadian rhythms resulted in degeneration of LC brain cells and ultimately apoptosis, or cell death. In the study, the researchers limited the test mice to four to five hours of sleep over a 24-hour time period. After three days of sleep deprivation, the mice exhibited a 25% loss of LCs in the brain stem. What does this mean for you and me? Turn off the TV, put down that book, step away from the computer, and get a good night’s sleep. The health of your brain may depend on it. Read more about the study at]]>

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