Being deprived of sleep-even for only one night makes the brain unstable and prone to sudden shut downs, described as “brief lapses that hover between sleep and wakefulness”, according to David Dinges, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Dinges’ conducted a study involving brain imaging on 24 adults who performed simple tasks involving visual attention when the participants were well rested, and when they had missed a night’s sleep.  Researchers measured blood flow to the brain through the use of a functional MRI, and showed significant, momentary lapses in several areas of the brain.

These lapses seem to suggest that sleep loss renders the brain incapable of fully fending off the drive to sleep, which is significant because, as Dinges says, “These people are not lying in bed. They are sitting up doing a task they learned and they are working very hard at doing their best.”

These lapses can be very dangerous and a warning to anyone considering functioning with little to no sleep.

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