Sleeplessness is making you fat, sad and more likely to make an ass of yourself on national television. But researchers say insomnia could have a more dangerous, irreversible effect that may make it more difficult for you to bore yourself to sleep by reciting state capitals, with a new study finding lack of sleep may cause permanent brain damage.
According to a report this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania found that mice who stayed awake too long suffered permanent brain cell death. Mimicking the sleeping pattern of night shift workers, mice who got only four to five hours sleep in 24 hours over a three day period lost 25 percent of their locus ceruleus (LC) neurons, which apparently help keep us alert and awake.
The study is the first one to suggest the negative effects of sleeplessness are permanent, and though scientists have yet to confirm a similar effect in humans, the results are not a great sign. «We now have evidence that sleep loss can lead to irreversible injury,” Dr. Sigrid Veasey, the study’s lead author, told Forbes. ”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 Center for Disease Control recently pointed out that nearly 30 percent of American adults got an average of under 6 hours of sleep per night in 2005-2007 and that was before Netflix started streaming all 8 seasons of Dexter. Our brain cells are slowly getting un-slept and Red Bull-ed away, and one day a Kardashian will be unanimously declared our Queen.
On the bright side, Science has also decreed that tequila is good for you, kind of, so let’s all cling to that shred of hope before popping Ambien like baby carrots.