A good night's sleep may be critical for maintaining brain health, says a new study.
"One night of sleep deprivation increases morning blood concentrations of two molecules - a neuronal enzyme (NSE) and calcium-binding protein S-100B - in healthy young men. These molecules are typically found in the brain. Thus, their rise in blood after sleep loss may indicate that a lack of snoozing might be conducive to a loss of brain tissue," said Christian Benedict, Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Sweden.
To reach the conclusion, the researchers selected 15 normal-weight men. In one condition, they were sleep-deprived for one night, while in the other condition, they slept for approximately eight hours.
"Increased blood concentrations of these two brain molecules in sleep-deprived participants mean brain damage. Thus, our results indicate that a lack of sleep may promote neuro-degenerative processes," added the study, published in the journal SLEEP.
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. "There is no suggestion that a single night of sleep loss is equally harmful to your brain as a head injury," said Benedict.
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".