Scientists have discovered that sleep deprivation causes your brain cells to switch off while awake – and it could happen to you while driving.
However, it also affects other aspects of your life, from forgetting where your car keys are to a lack of concentration – which could lead to a crash.
Scientists took 12 people who were sleep-deprived and found their tiredness interfered with their brain’s neuron functionality.
Professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Tel Aviv University, Itzhak Fried, spoke to The Times. He said: “We discovered that starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly.”
“This paves the way for cognitive lapses in how we perceive and react to the world around us. The very act of seeing the pedestrian slows down in the driver’s overtired brain. It takes longer for his brain to register what he’s perceiving.”
Patients were asked to categorise a series of images as quickly as they could. The research found that as they became sleepier, the task became increasingly difficult. Factor in that this could happen behind the wheel and concentration levels are much lower than those of someone who is fully awake, and its easy to see how accidents could happen.
Most alarming about the research, however, is that brainwaves seemed to slow down, meaning certain parts of the brain were attempting to sleep – not something you want to happen while driving.
Not only does it affect your ability to drive, sleep deprivation has also been linked to diabetes, obesity and depression.