Most people have experienced enough sleepless nights to know how it affects their bodies. You wake up and feel completely exhausted. Throughout the day you find it difficult to concentrate and you want to eat all the sugary, carby foods for fast energy. A lack of sleep can make all the difference in your day. Unfortunately, when you lack sleep many nights in a row, sleep deprivation will really take effect. In fact, according to a new study published in the journal SLEEP, sleep deprivation may be the equivalent of traumatic brain injury.

woman exhausted, lays in bed wide awake in the middle of the night

Otherwise Healthy Men May Suffer Brain Damage

The study used 15 young and healthy men who spent two nights in a sleep laboratory. One night, the men were kept without sleep, and the other night they were allowed to sleep about 8 hours. Blood tests were taken after each night, and they were checked for levels of neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and S100 calcium-binding protein B (S-100B).

The results showed that people experienced a 20% increase in NSE and S-100B after a night without sleep compared to a night with sleep.

How Significant Are Results?

The lead investigator said of the results, “We observed that a night of total sleep loss was followed by increased blood concentrations of NSE and S-100B. These brain molecules typically rise in blood under conditions of brain damage. Thus, our results indicate that a lack of sleep may promote neurodegenerative processes.” It’s very important to note the way he stated this because he doesn’t attribute a cause-and-effect relationship between the chemical increases and brain damage. That’s because the data is spotty.

As far as NSE goes, at least one study noted that a significantly higher level of NSE showed coma victims were more likely to have a bad outcome, such as death or permanent vegetative state. However, other studies have noted that NSE is linked with many other types of tissue damage.

S-100B has a similar story because it can be linked with anything from increased exercise to a broken leg as well as brain trauma.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects the Body

Not only does sleep deprivation potentially cause brain damage, but it affects other areas of your body, too. For example, it can affect the following areas of your body:

  • Central Nervous System
  • Immune System
  • Respiratory System
  • Digestive System
  • Endocrine System

Sleep deprivation can also cause the following problems:

  • Mood changes
  • Weakened immunity
  • Risk for diabetes
  • Low sex drive
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Low balance
  • High blood pressure
  • Accidents
  • Weight gain

If you’re not sleeping 7 to 9 hours every night and waking up feeling refreshed, your body will pay the consequences.

Brain Damage and Untreated Sleep Apnea

Although we can’t be sure it’s brain damage that’s resulting here, we know that this isn’t good news for sleep apnea sufferers. With the amount of sleep lost for these patients, it’s likely that if sleep deprivation does lead to brain damage, they will be sufferers.

Since sleep apnea prevents you from getting the right amount of deep sleep, almost every night of sleep will feel like you didn’t sleep. In just a few days, you will notice the effects of sleep deprivation. With enough sleep deprivation, sleep apnea can not only potentially lead to brain damage but also increase one’s risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems. Fortunately, our sleep dentists at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center can help with sleep apnea treatment in Omaha.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea or have an official diagnosis from your physician, please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha today to learn more about our comfortable sleep apnea treatment options.