A good night’s sleep is essential for brain health

A good night’s sleep is essential for brain health

It is common knowledge, that sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

What does happen if you do not sleep? According to researchers from Uppsala University’s Department of Neuroscience, Sweden, lack of sleep may promote neurodegenerative processes.

The study, published in the specialist journal Sleep, follows an investigation published in the US journal Science in October that found sleep accelerated the cleansing of cellular waste from the brain. The Swedish study was primarily funded by the Swedish Brain Foundation (Hjärnfonden) and Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Researchers looked at levels of two types of brain molecules: the neuronal enzyme NSE and the calcium-binding protein S-100B. These molecules typically rise in the blood under conditions resulting in brain damage or distress. An increase in levels of the molecules can be measured after everything from sports injuries to the head and carbon monoxide poisoning, to sleep apnea and fetal distress after childbirth.

15 normal-weight young men participated in the study. In one condition they were sleep-deprived for one night, while in the other condition they slept for approximately 8 hours. Researchers measured the levels of NSE and S-100B and found morning serum levels of the molecules increased by about 20 per cent compared with values obtained after a night of sleep.

Researchers think that the rise of these molecules in blood after sleep loss may indicate that a lack of sleep might mean loss of brain tissue.

“These brain molecules typically rise in blood under conditions of brain damage,” said sleep researcher Christian Benedict at the Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, who led the study. “Thus, our results indicate that a lack of sleep may promote neurodegenerative processes….In conclusion, the findings of our trial indicate that a good night’s sleep may be critical for maintaining brain health.”

Christian Benedict said it’s important to note, however, that levels of NSE and S-100B previously found after acute brain damage (including as a result of a concussion), have been distinctly higher than those found in the Swedish study, and there is no suggestion that a single night of sleep loss is equally harmful to your brain as a head injury.

Still, the researchers said their findings suggest “a good night’s sleep may possess neuroprotective function in humans, as has also been suggested by others.”

Good night and sleep tight!