Stacey Solomon gets tips and advice from sleep expert
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Difficulty sleeping is a common issue for Britons, with around a third of adults suffering from sleep issues at least once in their lives. As a result of sleep deprivation we can struggle with everyday activities and feel run down. However, it could have an even more serious impact – on our brains.
A new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, discovered that a lack of sleep could appear to age the brain.
Experiencing just one night of complete sleep deprivation was shown to age some people’s brains by up to two years.
The team of researchers, from various institutes across Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, found it caused significant changes in brain structure.
As part of the study, MRI data from 134 healthy participants – aged between 19 and 39 – with a range of sleep conditions was analysed.
These sleep conditions included total sleep deprivation – 24 hours of wakefulness, partial deprivation – three hours time in bed a night and chronic deprivation – including five hours in bed a night for five nights.
A control group was also included, of which participants slept eight hours a night.
Subjects from each group also had at least one night of what was called “baseline sleep” where they were in bed for eight hours.
Each night the brains of participants were assessed, with the apparent brain age calculated.
Those in the total sleep deprivation group displayed an increased brain age of one to two years.
However, these changes could be reversed by recovery sleep.
The study explained: “Interestingly, after one night of recovery sleep, brain age was not different from baseline.
“We also demonstrated the associations between the change in brain age after total sleep deprivation and the sleep variables measured during the recovery night.”
Scientists found that brain age was not significantly changed among the acute or chronic groups.
They said: “By contrast, brain age was not significantly changed by either acute (three hours’ time in bed for one night) or chronic partial sleep restriction (five hours’ time in bed for five continuous nights).
“Taken together, the convergent findings indicate that acute total sleep loss changes brain morphology in an ageing-like direction in young participants and that these changes are reversible by recovery sleep.”
The study concluded: “Sleep is fundamental for humans to maintain normal physical and psychological functions.
“In three independent datasets, we consistently found increased brain age after total sleep deprivation, which was associated with the change in sleep variables.
“Moreover, no significant change in brain age was found after partial sleep deprivation in another two datasets.
“Our study provided new evidence to explain the brain-wide effect of sleep loss in an ageing-like direction.”
However, the research did not explore the long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation.
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