News for Nerds: Does Sleep Loss Cause Brain Damage?
- 3/21/2014 |
- 10:00 am
Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week I'll cover the next generation of creepy sentient computers, I'll explain why electronic cigarettes might be worse than you think, and I'll also explain why dark chocolage might be better than you think. But first: good night, sleep tight.
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It's not exactly breaking news that getting a good night's sleep is very important to your overall health.
But a new study from the University of Pennsylvania has shown, for the first time, that missing sleep may actually cause brain damage in the form of lost neurons.
A team of neuroscientists studied mice who were submitted to sleep schedules very similar to those of human shift workers. They slept for short periods during inconsistent hours, and the result was devastating: the mice lost 25 percent of their neurons in the part of the brain associated with alertness and cognitive function.
What's more, there's no evidence to show that "catching up" on sleep by napping or sleeping in on the weekends repairs the damage. What's done is done.
I wish someone had told me that before I took a job that wakes me up at 4:00 every morning. Sheesh.
- story from Time, photo from Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons
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But now for the good news: researchers from Louisiana State University think you should probably eat more dark chocolate.
Here's why. There are essentially two kinds of microbes in your stomach -- good and bad. When you eat dark chocolate, the good microbes have a field day, eating and fermenting it as a means of producing anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit your heart.
Says LSU professor John Finley, "When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the risk of long-term stroke."
Better yet, these benefits can be amplified if you pair the dark chocolate with solid fruits, such as pomegranate or acai.
And as we all know, dark chocolate-covered pomegranates are one of the five most delicious foods on the planet. Maybe you should pick some up today. Doctor's orders.
- story from WebMD, photo from John Loo via Wikimedia Commons
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Here are a couple other cool science stories you might enjoy:
- We live in an age that can easily be defined as the most rapidly-evolving technological era in the history of the world. Things are moving pretty fast, and apparently the next big wave of the future is true artificial intelligence . . . or in other words, computers that know what you need before you ask.
- The rise of electronic cigarettes was supposed to be a good thing. The idea was that e-cigarettes would help long-time smokers kick the habit, or at least cut back. But it doesn't seem like that's happening, and to make matters worse, e-cigarettes appear to be targeting (and snaring) a rising number of teens.
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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!