A mind is a terrible thing to waste, as the old adage goes. But so is sleep.
Last week a new study emerged indicating that chronic insomnia may be doing more damage to your brain than you ever thought: it could be associated with a wasting away of its gray matter.
The area in question is known as a “stress sensitive” region, which involves memory formation. And the scientists who headed up this latest study out of the Netherlands have shown that insomnia patients have lower grey matter density in the brain regions that helps us to evaluate pleasant stimuli (i.e., that which helps us get to sleep!), as well as in regions related to the brain’s “resting state” (i.e., sleep!).
The people most at risk for smaller brain volume? Not surprisingly, people:
- Under chronic and severely stressful situations.
- Depressed or those with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- With psychiatric disorders.
These circumstances are not all that unusual now that stress is very much a part of everyone’s daily life. Psychiatric disorders may be rare, but unrelenting stress is not. These researchers noted smaller gray matter in people with chronic insomnia who were otherwise psychiatrically healthy!
Since this is an early study, we also must ask the question: Which came first? The smaller grey matter causing/influencing the insomnia, or the insomnia causing/influencing the grey matter. Only time will tell, as I am sure this is another study to be done.
The brain is not something you want to lose over lack of sleep. And it’s not something you can get back easily once it’s gone.
Like I said, a mind (quite
literally, the brain) is a terrible thing to waste.