Sleep Deprivation Is Way More Serious Than We Thought, Says Study

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We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep, but a new study reinforces that sleep deprivation is pretty serious stuff. In fact, lack of sleep slows down your brain and can create “mental lapses.”

Researchers observed 12 patients who were about to have surgery to treat their epilepsy at UCLA. “The patients had electrodes implanted in their brains in order to pinpoint the origin of their seizures prior to surgery,” a press release explained. “Because lack of sleep can provoke seizures, patients stay awake all night to speed the onset of an epileptic episode and shorten their hospital stay.” The researchers asked the patients to perform a task — categorizing a group of images — at various points throughout the night. The sleepier the patients were, the more difficult they found the task.

“We were fascinated to observe how sleep deprivation dampened brain cell activity,” said author Yuval Nir of Tel Aviv University. “Unlike the usual rapid reaction, the neurons responded slowly and fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual.”

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

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The study also found that sleep deprivation may cause “mental lapses,” colloquially known as “brain farts.”

“We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly,” lead researcher Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Tel Aviv University, said in a press release. “This leads to cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us.”

The study’s authors believe more research is needed into the short- and long-term effects of sleep deprivation, especially when it comes to sleep deprivation in drivers. They explained that a sleep-deprived driver’s brain may take longer to process a pedestrian stepping out in front of their car, and thus they may be slower to react appropriately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.

“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.”

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

Featured image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.