The study from Uppsala University, Sweden, shows that one night of sleep deprivation increases morning blood concentrations of molecules NSE and S-100B in healthy young men.
These molecules are typically found in the brain. Thus, their rise in blood after sleep loss may indicate that a lack of sleep may result in loss of brain tissue, researchers said.
Fifteen normal-weight men participated in the study. In one condition they were sleep-deprived for one night, while in the other condition they slept for approximately 8 hours.
"We observed that a night of total sleep loss was followed by increased blood concentrations of NSE and S-100B. These brain molecules typically rise in blood under conditions of brain damage," said sleep researcher Christian Benedict at the Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, who led the study.
"Thus, our results indicate that a lack of sleep may promote neurodegenerative processes," said Benedict.
"In conclusion, the findings of our trial indicate that a good night's sleep may be critical for maintaining brain health," said Benedict.
The findings are published in the journal SLEEP.