Lack of Sleep Can Shrink Your Brain

Burning midnight oil? Well, for your own sake, cut that out, because if you keep it up, you’ll get brain damage.

A study published in Neurology has found that chronic poor sleep can shrink some parts of the brain. Oxford researchers took 147 older adults, interviewed them about their sleep habits, and then measured dimensions of their brains using an MRI machine. This continued over a period of three and a half years.

What they found is that those with poor sleep habits (fewer than seven hours, irregular hours, wakefulness at night, etc.) also have smaller-than-average key parts of their brains, including those responsible for reasoning and executive functions. What are executive functions? Working memory, task flexibility, and problem solving, planning, and execution.

Now here’s some truly depressing news: there’s no evidence that this damage is reversible. You can’t even catch up on sleep over the weekend—there’s no telling how much time it’ll take to fix three year’s worth of damage, or if it can be fixed at all.

We suggest getting serious about sleep, right away. Need a little extra help? Try a re-timer.

Photo courtesy of Carlos Martnz

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