Lack of sleep affects brain cells, a study says

Sofia Galiano/ Staff Writer

Students who put off sleep to cram for an exam may also be losing brain cells, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers of the University of Pennsylvania found that mice experiencing extended wakefulness had a decline in locus ceruleus neurons, which are responsible for alertness, suggesting humans who stay up for long periods of time may be subjects to permanent brain cell damage.

“When you don’t sleep enough you deplete neurotransmitters,” said Liane Dornheim, staff psychologist for Counseling and Psychological Services, who specializes in Neuropsychology.

Dornheim said it is very common for University students to visit CAPS because of sleep-related issues. “They don’t sleep enough,” Dornheim said.

She continued saying that many times students are stressed about school, finances and relationships, and this in turn causes them to suffer from sleep deprivation.

Some students said sleeping becomes a challenge when they have a test coming up.

Tamara Phanor, sophomore biology major, said she would stay up past midnight to review for an exam, but the mere idea of test-taking makes her anxious and obstructs her ability to fall asleep.

“When I have exams I have anxiety,” Phanor said.

In order to feel refreshed in the morning, Phanor said she would have to be in bed by 11 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m. to get at least eight hours of shut-eye.

According to Dornheim, that sounds about right.

“The average person needs eight hours of sleep,” she said.

However, students who have to balance academics and their careers know how difficult it is to get a good night’s sleep.

Sebastian Gonzalez, sophomore majoring in international business and marketing, said he sleeps well, making it to bed by midnight, but his job forces him to stay up until 2 a.m. two days out of the week.

Likewise, Priscilla Nemirovski, a junior studying English literature, said the study results make sense as she too puts off sleep for her job and to complete class assignments, but she feels she steadily spends her days trying to replenish lost hours of sleep with caffeine and exercise.

“Life’s a roller coaster of being tired and drinking coffee,” Nemirovski said.

Stress triggers poor sleeping habits, but Dornheim said people become more stressed when they don’t have a regular sleep regimen.

Vaasha Ramnarine, freshman majoring in environmental engineering, said her bedtime varies depending whether she is studying or is simply enjoying a night out with friends.

Ramnarine said although she tried to correct her troubled sleeping pattern, she failed.

“I’ve tried going to sleep earlier, but my body won’t let me,” Ramnarine said.

This cycle is what Nemirovski was referring to, and Dornheim said it is why some people have visited CAPS.

Dornheim said patients suffering from stress-related matters are referred to a multiple-session workshop that helps them develop sleep hygiene.

As a result, students can reduce stress in their lives, while preserving their brain cells.

About the Author

Sofia Galiano
: News Director Assistant, former BBC Managing Editor. I'm a senior journalism major and psychology minor. I wrote for the South Florida Times through the Liberty City Link in spring 2014 and have written for The Beacon since fall 2013.

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