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summer 2007

brain
B R I E F I N G S

E V I D E N C E S H O W S T H AT SLEEP DEFICITS creases the risk of a variety of such as obesity.


A LACK OF SLEEP CAN An apple a day may keep the health problems, including di- Everyone knows what it
H AV E A N E G A T I V E I M P A C T doctor away, but can the same abetes, cardiovascular disease means to be sick and tired.
ON OUR HEALTH, INCREAS- be said for 40 winks a day? and heart attacks, stroke, de- Sleep disorders are among the
ING THE RISK FOR ACCI- Losing sleep can leave you pression, high blood pressure, most common health prob-
DENTS AS WELL AS HEALTH more than just a little cranky. obesity, and infections. lems in the United States, af-
P R O B L E M S L I K E O B E S I T Y, Evidence is building that sleep Working with animals as fecting up to 70 million peo-
INFECTIONS, AND HEART may have a fundamental role in well as human subjects, scien- ple. And many of the 80
DISEASE. EXTENSIVE keeping you healthy and in tists are tracking changes in different sleep disorders, in-
RESEARCH IS BEGINNING fighting off disease. the body across cycles of sleep cluding sleep apnea, nar-
TO GIVE SCIENTISTS Sleep is critical for concen- and wakefulness, in health, colepsy, and insomnia, are as-
CLUES AS TO WHY THIS tration, memory, and coor- disease, and injury. More re- sociated with other diseases
M I G H T B E S O . S L E E P P L AY S dination. People simply don’t search into the mechanisms of and conditions, such as high
A CRITICAL ROLE IN HOW perform as well when they sleep may lead to: blood pressure, Parkinson’s
W E L L W E C O N C E N T R AT E shortchange sleep. Studies show, ∫ Greater appreciation of the disease, and depression.
AND PERFORM, HELPS for example, that truck drivers importance of sleep in main- Illness and sleep are linked
C O N S O L I D AT E M E M O R I E S and pilots are at greater risk taining health. in other ways as well. Injury or
A N D S E T T H E S TA G E F O R of crashes and near misses as a ∫ Better understanding of the infection tends to increase the
L E A R N I N G , A N D M AY result of sleep deprivation. biological function of sleep. amount of time we sleep and
AFFECT HOW THE IMMUNE In fact, sleep loss can have as ∫ Improved treatments for can disrupt normal sleep pat-
SYSTEM RESPONDS TO big an effect on performance as common health problems, terns. In addition, heart at-
AT TA C K . T E A S I N G A PA R T drinking. One study showed

R E P R I N T E D W I T H P E R M I S S I O N F R O M T H E J O U R N A L O F N E U R O P S Y C H I AT RY A N D
C L I N I C A L N E U R O S C I E N C E . © 2 0 0 6 , A M E R I C A N P S Y C H I AT R I C A S S O C I AT I O N .
PAT T E R N S L I K E T H E S E W I L L that truck drivers who had
H E L P U S U N D E R S TA N D W H Y gone 28 hours without sleep
WE SLEEP AND HOW SLEEP performed as poorly as if they
H E L P S K E E P U S H E A L T H Y. had blood alcohol levels of 0.1
percent, which is above the le-
gal limit in much of the world.
Sleep is also important for
our emotional health. Students
who reported getting signifi-
cantly less sleep on school
nights in one study, for exam-
ple, were more likely to say they t THE TWO IMAGES ABOVE SHOW AREAS OF THE BRAIN WHERE BLOOD FLOW

felt hopeless, sad, or depressed. DECREASES WHEN A PERSON IS DEPRIVED OF SLEEP FOR 24 HOURS, COMPARED

And over time, the cumula- WITH WHEN THEY ARE RESTED. RESEARCHERS SUSPECT THAT REDUCED BLOOD

tive effect of shortchanging FLOW IN SUCH AREAS AS THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX, LOCATED TOWARD THE

sleep can really wear down your FRONT OF THE HEAD (THE TOP OF EACH IMAGE), MAY BE LINKED TO DEFICITS IN

health. Growing evidence sug- CONCENTRATION AND OTHER KINDS OF COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE THAT ARE

gests that a lack of sleep in- NOTED IN PEOPLE WHO HAVE LOST A LOT OF SLEEP.
D AV I D VA N E S S E N , P H D tacks and strokes happen more appetite. An ongoing study is known as cytokines, which are
President often in the morning than at following a group of over- among the first signals the
Washington University other times of the day, which weight subjects to study the body sends out in response to
School of Medicine may be linked to natural impact sleep has on hormone infection and injury. Based on
changes in body rhythms, in- levels and weight. a number of studies in animals,
EVE E. MARDER, PHD cluding our regular cycles of Many scientists studying the researchers suspect that cyto-
President-Elect sleeping and being awake. role of sleep in maintaining kines known to cause inflam-
Brandeis University Proper sleep also may help good health are also taking a mation also enhance sleep.
us maintain a healthy weight. close look at inflammation. Other cytokines that block
S T E P H E N F. H E I N E M A N N , P H D Many studies show that inade- Recent experiments indicate inflammation tend to inhibit
Past President quate sleep puts people at an that when we fail to get enough sleep. Taken together, these
The Salk Institute increased risk of becoming sleep, inflammation may result. patterns give researchers hints
overweight. Some also note a For example, one study showed as to why being sick makes us
F O R M O R E I N F O R M AT I O N connection between longer that people who got only 4.5 feel tired.
Please contact the public sleep times and being over- hours of sleep 10 days in a row While the complicated inter-
information department weight. Recent research track- had levels of a protein marker relationships that connect sleep
at publicinfo@sfn.org or ing hormone levels may help for inflammatory processes and health have not yet been
(202) 962-4000 scientists understand why. that were three times higher at fully mapped out, additional
Researchers following more the end of that period than at research may one day help us
PA S T I S S U E S than 1,000 people found that the beginning. The protein, gauge what is a “healthy”
www.sfn.org/briefings those who slept for five instead C-reactive protein, has been amount of sleep. Evidence
of eight hours had 15 percent shown to predict the risk of points to finding a happy
lower levels of leptin and 15 stroke and heart attack. The el- medium for sleep: Too little —
percent higher levels of ghrelin. evated levels put some of the or too much — increases the
These two hormones regulate study’s subjects in the high-risk risk of disease, and may even
how hungry you feel, and range. shorten your life. That makes
lower levels of leptin and in- Another line of research has those 40 winks a day as impor-
COPYRIGHT © 2007 SOCIETY FOR NEUROSCIENCE creased ghrelin both increase examined cellular chemicals tant as that apple.

NONPROFIT ORG.

US POSTAGE PAID

PERMIT NO. 161

HARRISONBURG, VA

SLEEP DEFICITS