We all know the after effects of an All-Nighter. There are persistent headaches, lethargy, drowsiness and in many cases, nausea. But what happens to the body when you deprive it of sleep for a long time? Let’s just take a look at a study done in Norway by a team of Neuroscientists.
The team of scientists subjected 21 healthy young men to staying awake for 23 hours. They weren’t allowed to consume caffeine, nicotine or alcohol to even the odds or provide control conditions as the technical term goes for an experiment. They were then subjected to a Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) Test. This measured the water diffusion in the body and thus the health of the nervous system. They weren’t allowed to eat anything before the test either.
What they found was that there was significant change in the white matter in the brain after 23 hours of staying awake. It’s something called widespread fractional anisotropy. It basically means that the connectivity of the brain is a little out of wack. These changes effect the corpus callosum, brainstem, thalamus, fronto temporal and parieto-occipital tracts. Meaning that it completely shakes up the brain.
But does this have long lasting effects on the brain or does a night of full sleep the following night restore the brain to it’s original vigour and alertness. Well there has been a study where a student stayed awake for 11 days and got pretty messed up but regained his composure after a night of full sleep. The author of the report from Norway, Torbjørn Elvsåshagen, mentions that a night of full sleep can repair the damage done by sleep deprivation. However, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to long lasting effects in the structure of the brain.
What’s interesting is that two subjects in the study had different brain activity than the rest of the subjects, meaning that some of us may have better protection against sleep deprivation than others.
Also, a study in Sweden earlier this year found that even one sleepless night can alter our cellular biological clocks.