We all realize that sleep deprivation is tough on our bodies and our brains. But did you know that a new study compares the way our brain reacts after a lousy night’s sleep to the way it reacts after we drink too much?
A small new study from UCLA offers some intriguing clues about why we feel so dopey after a night of lost sleep. It looked at the activity of individual brain cells in sleep-deprived patients, and saw that the cells’ behavior changed as the night wore on—and this was directly mirrored in a decline in the patients’ performance on a cognitive task. The researchers point out that the changes in cognitive performance that come with sleep deprivation is quite similar to the decline that comes from alcohol use.
According to MedicalNewsToday, “The scientists noticed that the sleepier and more tired the participants became, the more difficult they found the task, and the slower they performed.”
“We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity,” explains lead study author Dr. Yuval Nir. He notes that with lack of sleep, brain cells became “sluggish” and neural communication was impaired.
“Unlike the usual rapid reaction,” he says, “the neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual.”
MedicalXpress.com added, the study is the first to reveal how sleep deprivation disrupts our brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, leading to temporary mental lapses that affect memory and visual perception.
“We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly,” said senior author Dr. Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Tel Aviv University. “This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us.”
And Newsweek.com wrote, “the authors said, it might be time for a rethink on how we view sleep deprivation, which can have a similar effect on the brain to alcohol intoxication.”
“Severe fatigue exerts a similar influence on the brain to drinking too much,” Fried said. “Yet no legal or medical standards exist for identifying overtired drivers on the road the same way we target drunk drivers.”
Newsweek also put together a short video with ‘tips’ for getting a getter night’s sleep. You can watch it by clicking here or on the picture below.
If better sleep leads to better health, how can we help the people of our state get the shut eye they need? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Working together to find innovative solutions to the health issues we face is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!