A new study has found sleep loss can lead to brain damage in mice by killing brain cells, and researchers believe it may not be far from true for humans as well.
Although the research, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience
, only studied animals, researchers said that it suggests a correlation in humans.
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“We now have evidence that sleep loss can lead to irreversible injury
,” study author Dr. Sigrid Veasey, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said in a release. ”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 research at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology found that keeping a mouse awake affected the locus ceruleus (LC) neurons, which are also significant in keeping people alert.
Study evidence showed a 25 percent loss in brain cells in the brain stem area when mice mimicked sleep patterns like those of humans who work at night. They had three days of night shifts, sleeping just four or five hours every 24 hours.
The researchers said further study is needed on whether or not the damage is permanent, BBC News reported
In the release, Veasey said the research indicates a possible direction for finding “a promising therapeutic target for millions of shift workers.”
Future research will focus on looking at shift workers’ brains after their death to determine if there was LC neuron loss, Veasey continued.
This research was surprising, she added. “No one really thought that the brain could be irreversibly injured from sleep loss.”
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