Would you rather ride with a drunk driver or a sleepless one?
Sleep deprivation disrupts the way brain cells communicate with each other, which may explain why a bad night’s sleep can cause memory lapses and poor concentration.
Itzhak Fried, of the University of California at Los Angeles, and his team studied the brains of 12 people with epilepsy. They implanted these patients' brains with electrodes mainly to treat their epilepsy, but with the intention of seeing their brain cells reactions when they get really tired as well.
They were asked to repeatedly do a test wherein they had to sort out a collection of images as fast as possible and then asked to do it again but this time, they have to stay awake all night beforehand. Researchers found that the lacks of sleep disrupted the brain cells' communication: they fired less strongly and has longer transmissions. The sleep deprivation resulted to the neurons' slower response to visual information.
“We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly,” says Fried. He says not getting enough sleep affects the brain similarly as when drinking too much. “Yet no legal or medical standards exist for identifying over-tired drivers on the road the same way we target drunk drivers,” he says.
So, I guess you know now who to ride with. And if you're driving, I hope you understand your responsibilities.
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