Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden put 15 young, well-rested and healthy men through a night of total sleep deprivation. When they tested their blood the next morning, they found higher concentrations of the enzyme NSE and S-100B—both biomarkers of cell damage in the brain that could lead to cognitive problems and memory loss.
These findings follow research earlier this year showing that sleep “cleans” your brain of toxins and other substances than can destroy your neurons. “With this finding in mind, once could speculate that the sleep loss-induced rise in circulating levels of NSE and S-100B in our study may be a result of increased neuronal damage,” says study author Christian Benedict, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience at the university. NSE is an enzyme found in all neurons, and S-100B is the “glue of the brain”, Dr. Benedict says. Some research suggests that S100B is important for information processing, and elevated levels make it easy for doctors to detect brain cell damage through a simple blood test.
The researchers havent yet conducted the experiment on women. But findings could apply, since the levels of NSE and S-100B were significantly higher compared to participants’ natural baselines. Still, the levels weren’t higher than those found after a concussion. “A single night of sleep loss is not equally harmful as head injury,” says Dr. Benedict. “However, it does suggest that getting a regular, good night’s sleep may be useful for supporting brain health.”