If you are sleep-deprived or if your job has you sitting all day, your brain is being damaged. If both apply to you, that is a double-whammy that no brain can withstand. Regularly getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night can cause the same long-term brain damage as alcohol abuse. Sitting at a desk all day or spending hours watching television damages the brain in a way that can increase the risk of dementia.
Recent research found that getting too little sleep causes the brain to literally eat itself. Specialized brain cells called astrocytes are more active in brains that are sleep-deprived. Astrocytes act like miniature vacuum cleaners, sucking up unwanted cellular debris. While normally this is good, when the vacuuming goes on too long, the astrocytes begin sucking up portions of the brain’s connections called synapses.
Sedentary behavior such as prolonged sitting has been found to be associated with thinning of the medial temporal lobe of the brain. This portion of the brain is crucial to the formation of new memories. Thinning of the medial temporal lobe can be an early sign of cognitive decline and dementia.
Published June 18, 2018 by Dr. Daniel Thomas, DO, MS