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Why sleep deprivation is worse than a hangover

08 November 2017

"You can imagine driving a auto and suddenly somebody jumps in front of the vehicle at night", Fried says.

This new study claims that lack of sleep can obstruct the communication of the brain cells which leads to mental and memory disorders in human beings.

The scientists zeroed in on the temporal lobe, which regulates visual perception and memory.

"We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly", said senior author Dr. Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Tel Aviv University. The resulting cognitive lapses in turn affect how one perceives and reacts to their surroundings.

For the study, Fried, along with an worldwide team of scientists, studied 12 people preparing to undergo surgery for epilepsy at UCLA. To trigger seizures so as to know the seizure origins in the brain the researchers had sleep deprived the patients for evaluation under controlled situations.

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Brain cells, called neurons, were found to fire more weakly and take longer to respond in a study of 12 people kept awake all night. During this activity, the electrodes recorded a total of nearly 1,500 brain cells firing off from all the patients, with the researchers paying particular attention to those located within the temporal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for regulating visual perception as well as memory.

Four of the patients stayed up all night before looking at some more images. However, the study found that the brain cells actually slowed down, too.

The clinical study by Yuval Nir from Tel Aviv University and colleagues was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

This means that the ability of the neurons to process information and convert visual perception into their consciousness is greatly impaired by sleep deprivation.

Researchers explain that the same thing could happen when a sleepy driver notices a pedestrian walking in front of his auto. It takes longer for his brain to register what he's perceiving'.

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The scientists noticed that the sleepier and more exhausted the participants became, the more hard they found the task, and the slower they performed. Fried says this suggests that certain regions of the brain were "dozing, causing mental lapses" while the rest was trying to stay awake and run as usual.

This examination will also help the researchers to understand why seizures develop on sleep deprivation. "Severe fatigue exerts a similar influence on the brain to drinking too much", he said in a statement. But, as Fried said in a university release, "no legal or medical standards exist for identifying overtired drivers on the road the same way we target drunk drivers".

Not only does it affect your ability to drive, sleep deprivation has also been linked to diabetes, obesity and depression.

He added that, aside from drivers, medical residents serving long shifts in the hospital with only few hours of sleep are more likely to make errors with how they provide medical care to their patients.

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Why sleep deprivation is worse than a hangover