Can You Make Up For Lost Sleep?

Contrary to the popular belief of college students, that nap you take after pulling an all-nighter will not make up for the lost sleep the night before. A study published in the Brain journal has found that sleep deprivation disrupts the brain’s clearance of molecular waste and subsequent sleep does not compensate for it.

Led by Per Kristian Eide at the Oslo University Hospital, the study focused on the repercussions of 24 hours of sleep deprivation on clearance of molecular waste and if subsequent sleep would affect molecular clearance. In both the control and experimental groups, individuals were administered a tracer molecule, gadobutrol, into their cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) to enrich brain tissue and represent water-soluble metabolites that are excreted from neuronal activity. MRIs were administered throughout the study and results indicated tracer enriched brain tissue in both groups to be the same initially. After 24 hours of sleep deprivation, MRIs indicated impaired clearance of the tracer molecule in most brain regions, such as the cerebral cortex, white matter, and limbic structures and MRIs administered after subsequent sleep did not show improved molecular clearance.

This study has given in vivo evidence that sleeping does allow time for molecular clearance and if sleep-deprived, subsequent sleep does not clear the previous night’s molecular waste build-up. These findings may set the foundation for understanding the impact of sleep deprivation and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease which is commonly characterized by the early build-up of metabolic waste.

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“Sleep Deprivation Impairs Molecular Clearance From the Brain.” Medscape, Accessed 21 May 2021.