If you suffer from sleep deprivation, you might find yourself overly groggy after a night of poor sleep, having a hard time concentrating and forgetting things. However, nobody knows why this happens, so a team of researchers coming from institutions like the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, UCLA, the University of Wisconsin, or the Tel Aviv University, has decided to investigate.
How bad is sleep deprivation for the brain?
For the study, researchers looked at the symptoms exhibited by 12 patients suffering from epilepsy. Although the sample seems a little too small, researchers assured everyone the results were still relevant in showing how sleep deprivation influenced the brain.
All these patients were about to undergo surgery to treat their condition. However, before the procedure, they all got some electrode implants in their brains, so that researchers might see what caused their seizures. Epilepsy attacks might appear if the person suffers from sleep deprivation, so the patients had to stay up an entire night during the procedure.
Sleep deprivation has similar effects as alcohol consumption
The tests began with the patients having to sort a series of images as quickly as possible. While they did it, the electrodes measured the activity of their brains, and identified around 1,500 cells which helped with the task. This way, researchers also observed how, the tired the patients got, the harder it was for them to undertake the sorting, and this was translated into the activity of the cells, too.
Therefore, sleep deprivation affected the brain as well, but only gradually, and several tasks took longer to fulfill. Also, from time to time, several areas of the brain entered a sleep-like state, while the others kept running as usual. This caused the entire mental activity to go into temporary lapses, leading to an effect similar to the one alcohol has on the brain.