Sleep Loss Causes Brain Damage!

A study released today by the University of Pennsylvania not only confirms something I’ve known — and LIVED — for years, but shows it’s much, much worse than we thought: sleep deprivation actually KILLS brain cells.  The bottom line:  everyone — EVERYONE — needs a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night.  Many of us need up to NINE hours.  And that’s just adults; teenagers need TEN hours, and younger children need TWELVE. 

And we need to get that sleep — at NIGHT.  As you’ll read further down in the article, the “next step” of the research is to find out how this affects “shift workers”.  As a shift worker myself, I can already tell you that:  it’s not good.  Getting even the prescribed amount of sleep, but during the day, is not the same as getting that sleep at NIGHT, when Nature intended . Shift workers may get the recommended AMOUNT of sleep, but it’s the wrong KIND of sleep.  The problem is that the human body is inextricably connected to the Earth, and its circadian rhythms.  The body will allow itself to go into the deepest levels of sleep — allowing a myriad of restorative functions to occur, including cell regeneration — only when it is NIGHTTIME.  It will not allow the body to go into these deep levels of sleep during the day, as an instinctive self-preservation measure; it knows that humans’ natural predators are on the move during the day, so it will not allow those deep levels of sleep while the sun is up.  Period. 

And don’t think you can trick the body into thinking it’s nighttime, either, using blackout shades, face masks, white noise, etc.  An experiment about a decade ago published in The Lancet put a group of people underground for more than a month, half put on a “day” schedule, the other put on an “overnight” schedule.  The entire time, NO ONE saw sunlight.  In the end, the “overnight” people exhibited more new sleep-related problems than the “daytime” people.

When is the “ideal” time to sleep?  Experts put that time at 10p – 6a.  If you must fudge it, 11p-7a.  Midnight to 8a would be about the limit they would recommend to get the necessary “nighttime” sleep.

Following is today’s article from “Time” magazine:

Study: Sleep Loss Can Cause Brain Damage

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Bad news for shift workers: Inconsistent sleep patterns may be hurting your brain, and making up for lost sleep on the weekends doesn’t help

Missing sleep may lead to brain damage, according to new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience on Tuesday.

Many assume that naps and sleeping in on weekends can help you catch up on your “sleep debt,” but that strategy won’t fix the damage you’ve already done to your brain, says neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey from the University of Pennsylvania.

Veasey and her colleagues studied mice who were submitted to a sleep schedule similar to that of shift workers. They slept for short periods during inconsistent hours. The researchers found that sleeping for only brief periods of time caused massive brain damage: the mice lost 25 percent of the neurons in their locus coeruleus, the section of their brain associated with alertness and cognitive function.

The scientists believe that when the mice slept inconsistently, their newer cells would create more sirtuin type 3, a protein meant to energize and protect the mice. But after several days of missing sleep, as a shift worker might, the protein creation fell off and cells began to die off at a faster pace.

“This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons,” Veasey said in a statement on the University of Pennsylvania website. The team plans to study the brains of deceased shift workers next to see if they show similar brain damage.