According to new research, the answer appears to be ‘Yes.’

We know that sleep is critical for the optimum functioning of our brain, though we are only now starting to understand why this is. One research group explored the mechanisms of the brain in both a waking and sleeping state. They found that the brain was doing work during sleep that it didn’t do while in a waking state. They framed this as ‘taking out the garbage’ and preparing for the next day of sensory input. Read more about this in the jounal ‘Science’ or read this summary article in the New York Times.

When the brain does not get a chance to do the work it needs to do because we either don’t sleep or don’t get enough sleep, then it does not function as it should. We may find that our memory is not as good and we have more difficulty with decision-making and problem-solving.

Sleep Loss and Brain Damage

Sleep Loss and Brain Damage

However, according to other new research, this may be the least of our problems. Chronic sleep loss may be permanently damaging our brain.

This research centres on the mitochondria in brain neurons. Mitochondria are the energy producers in the cells and when we are subjected to sleep loss, they do not function properly, thus depriving the brain of the energy needed for its functioning. For more on this research see J Psychiatr Res 2010 Sep, 44(12) 775-80, Andreazza AC or Journal of Neuroscience 2014 March, Veasey, Sigrid.

In my presentation ‘ZZZ… Best You Can Be,’ I encourage people to ‘choose sleep before chores.’ This new research really speaks to the wisdom of such a choice.