Pulling an all-nighter can make you feel completely drained, cranky, and out of sorts the next day, but can it also actually injure the brain? A new Swedish study published last Tuesday in the journal Sleep indicates that it might.
In the small study conducted in 15 healthy young men, the researchers measured blood levels of certain proteins associated with brain injuries like concussions after the men slept eight hours in a sleep lab and then were kept awake all night playing board games and watching movies. The researchers found that the blood protein levels were 20 percent higher after the men pulled an all-nighter compared to when they had a full night’s rest.
“The levels found after acute brain damage, such as after concussions, are distinctly higher than those found in our study,” said study leader Christian Benedict, an associate professor of neuroscience at Uppsala University in Sweden. “That said, it would not be appropriate to claim that a single night of sleep loss is equally harmful for your brain as a head injury.”
But it does indicate that skimping on sleep can do real damage to the brain, at least in the short-term.
Whether a build-up of toxins causes long-term damage to the brain over time remains unknown, but Benedict speculated that skipping a night of sleep on a regular basis could lead to chronic memory loss if certain regions of the brain are damaged.