Can Lack Of Sleep Hurt Your Brain?

Sleeping inA new study conducted by the Uppsala University, Sweden and published in the journal Sleep reports that one night of sleep deprivation increases morning blood concentrations of NSE and S-100B in healthy young men. These molecules are typically found in the brain, and their rise in blood after sleep loss may indicate that a lack of sleep may be conducive to a loss of brain tissue.

The participants were 15 normal-weight men subjected to two conditions sleep deprived for one night and also allowed to sleep approximately eight hours.

We observed that a night of total sleep loss was followed by increased blood concentrations of NSE and S-100B, said Christian Benedict of the Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University. These brain molecules typically rise in blood under conditions of brain damage. Thus, our results indicate that a lack of sleep may promote neurodegenerative processes. In conclusion, the findings of our trial indicate that a good nights sleep may be critical for maintaining brain health.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. Thus, to determine how much sleep you need, it's important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum," but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress. To get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends Newborns to 2 months get 12 to 18 hours of sleep; Infants 3 to 11 months- 14 to 15 hours; Toddlers 1 to 3 years - 12 to 14 hours; Preschoolers 3 to 5 years - 11 to 13 hours; School-Age Children 5 to 10 years - 10 to 11 hours; Teens 10 to 17 8.5 to 9.25 hours; and Adults 7 to 9 hours.

Last year researchers at the University of Helsinki showed what kinds of biological mechanism related to sleep loss affect the immune system and trigger an inflammatory response. The findings published in the journal PLOS ONE identified the genes which are most susceptible to sleep deprivation and examined whether these genes are involved in the regulation of the immune system.

We compared the gene expression before and after the sleep deprivation period and focused on the genes whose behavior was most strongly altered, said researcher Vilma Aho. The expression of many genes and gene pathways related to the functions of the immune system was increased during the sleep deprivation. There was an increase in activity of B cells which are responsible for producing antigens that contribute to the bodys defensive reactions, but also to allergic reactions and asthma. This may explain the previous observations of increased asthmatic symptoms in a state of sleep deprivation.

These results corroborate the idea that sleep does not only impact brain function, but also interacts with our immune system and metabolism, Aho continued. Sleep loss causes changes to the system that regulates our immune defense. Some of these changes appear to be long term and may contribute to the development of diseases that have been linked to sleep deprivation in epidemiological research.

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