In today’s hectic, fast-paced world, all too often we hear people say they haven’t gotten enough rest and plan to “catch up” on sleep over the weekend. However, new research suggests chronic sleep loss may be more serious than previously thought and may even lead to loss of brain cells .
A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
According to new research, learning becomes more difficult as we get older because our brains get too full for new information. This may be due, in part, to finding that with advanced age we get less sleep during the stage in which we don’t dream. Both studies are reported in the prestigious Nature family of journals.
Researchers have identified a common gene variant that is responsible for a person’s tendency to be an early riser or a night owl. This common genetic variant also helps determine the time of day a person is most likely to die. The findings appear in the November 2012 issue of the Annals of Neurology.