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Medicine Science

Sleep Found To Replenish a Type of Brain Cell 136

New submitter wrackspurt writes "Sleep deprivation has long been thought to be prevalent in the industrialized world. A new study (abstract) explains one very good reason why at least seven hours of sleep a night is necessary. Quoting the BBC: 'Sleep ramps up the production of cells that go on to make an insulating material known as myelin which protects our brain's circuitry. ... The increase was most marked during the type of sleep that is associated with dreaming - REM or rapid eye movement sleep — and was driven by genes. In contrast, the genes involved in cell death and stress responses were turned on when the mice were forced to stay awake.'"
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Sleep Found To Replenish a Type of Brain Cell

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  • by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:29PM (#44759629)
    If I don't get an ample amount of sleep at night, I am absolutely useless for any sort of skilled work.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I noticed that I need 9 hours of sleep to function, and my creativity drops if I don't get enough. Does anyone else have an above-average sleep requirement?

      Another problem I have is falling asleep, which doesn't help with the 9 hour requirement at all, and melatonin is becoming less effective. Fun... Good thing I don't have to start work at 9...

      • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:58PM (#44759973)

        1 Hour, Things after a few hours start to move funny
        2 Hours, I go for an hour or so, then I doze in and out for the rest of the day
        3 Hours, I go a few hours, and blink out for a few minutes every half an hour
        4 Hours, I can get threw the day, but I can't do much
        5 Hours, I am am at reduced functionally
        6 Hours, I can function during the day, but I am tired.
        7 Hours, I am fine, however I am kinda grumpy
        8 Hours, No problems
        9 Hours, A lot of sleep and a LOT of energy
        10 Hours, Too much sleep and I am kinda groggy
        11 Hours of sleep I get Grumpy again
        12 Hour a sleep I wander around like a zombie I spend the day like I just woke up.

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @04:57PM (#44760609) Journal

        Does anyone else have an above-average sleep requirement?

        I used to think I needed more sleep than average. But once I put a little thought into my sleep patterns and methods, I learned a real lesson about it. My wife and I spent a little money on a really good mattress (OK, it wasn't so little) and really good pillows (You ought to try MyPillow). Then, on a lark I tried using an Android app on my Nexus 7 called "Sleep as Android", which tracked my movement as I slept and tried to wake me when my sleep was the shallowest. Then, it graphs out your sleep patters (when you're sleeping deeply and not moving and when you're restless or snoring or tossing and turning). Finally, when you wake up you rate how you feel on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. After the few months, I was surprised to find that when I sleep between 7:15hrs and 7:30hrs I felt best and had the best, most productive days. Occasionally, I would try to sleep 8 or more hours and I'd never feel as well or work as well.

        So now, I sleep almost exactly 7:15hr to 7:30hr every night. I wake up without an alarm and fall asleep quickly and have great dreams. (the app has some "lucid dreaming" features that will play a little sound when you get into the deepest sleep state, and that got me in the habit of lucid dreaming - during which I'm almost always playing music, for some reason).

        It's worth taking an informed approach to sleep instead of just assuming "I need 9 hours". We sleep such a large percentage of our lives, and most of us really don't give much thought to it.

        • by TemperedAlchemist ( 2045966 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @05:34PM (#44760943)

          That's about spot on. You falling asleep quicker would account for the discrepancies, it takes most people thirty minutes to fall asleep.

          When it's said that you should get eight hours of sleep per night, what's actually meant is that you should get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in a dark, silent, and comfortable room on a consistent and precise schedule.

          Naturally there's more to sleep than simply duration. A lot more, in fact.


          I envy people like you. For some reason fate has decided to curse me to severe insomnia, and I require sleeping pills to maintain anything remotely normal.

          • There are also studies that indicate that you should not get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, but should wake up for an hour during the night.
            Apparently, some argue that this is how we evolved to sleep an thus this should be the most healthy way.
            The only reference I could find on short notice is the Wikipedia article on Segmented sleep []

            • There are periods when you might awake, even multiple times, between REM cycles. Forcing yourself awake during a cycle, however, is only going to harm the process.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's worth taking an informed approach to sleep instead of just assuming "I need 9 hours". We sleep such a large percentage of our lives, and most of us really don't give much thought to it.

          So you changed multiple factors. Great. Now we have no idea what to do. Was it the better mattress or the Android app? Or was it the pillow?

          You've changed too many things to gather any useful information about your sleep.

          • You've changed too many things to gather any useful information about your sleep.

            There's no reason in the first place for you to think anything that helped me would help you.

            My point is, the time you spend asleep is worth thinking about in a systematic way, in order to improve it and get the most out of it.

            I don't know what will help you. Maybe it's a cup of warm milk or a few minutes of mindfulness. Some people swear by a cup of spearmint and chamomile tea, brewed 15-20 minutes. But don't take your sleep

        • by Twinbee ( 767046 )
          Thanks for the mention of that Android app - I'll give it a go! Cool that it has lucid dreaming support too...
      • I found that I am the same way, I need 8 hours, but only get 4-6 because I cannot fall asleep (I take a sleep aid and melatonin has never helped). Go to the doctor, I finally did and found it is more than stress....I have a hyperactive thyroid.
      • Nope. Everyone else in the world has an exactly average or slightly below average sleep requirement - all 7 billion of us.
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      If I don't get an ample amount of sleep at night, I am absolutely useless for any sort of skilled work.

      The tireder I gets the more me grammer suffers.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The tireder I gets the more me grammer suffers.

        Well Popeye, tell Olive Oyl to stop keeping you up so late.

        • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

          When I was a wee young coder in college I pulled an all-nighter on a coding project. Big ol' statistical engine. Somewhere around 3 AM the code took on a narrative form ... I went off to the dorm for a couple hours sleep and came back to look at it ... whaaaa??? It looked perfectly fine to an exhausted brain. Perception clearly suffers from sleep deprivation.

          • You guys are all sissies! :-)

            The longest I've gone without sleep is almost 48 hours and I have to say the last few hours of that were really trippy!

            I was working hard to get a big software project out the door and I have to say that I was pretty productive right up to about hour 40 -- then I started making mistakes (despite the coffee). By about the 44th hour I was decidedly paranoid so decided to walk home and have some sleep.

            That walk home was so damned scary. The sun was just coming up and it felt like

            • I have that same issue. And my sleep cycle drifts to 26 hours a day now that I'm retired.

              When I get 6am- I go to sleep that night at 11 and reset. I don't want to drift through the day.

              My longest was 40 hours (in college). I said, "I'm going to take a nap" before the database test and laid down on a hard plastic bench- immediately someone was waking me up. I'd fallen asleep instantly.

              Last job before I retired worked us 72 hours (and more) per week. Two times, that was 4 weeks straight tho most the time

  • So where can i get some myelin? hehe
  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:34PM (#44759685)

    I don't understand this article. Couldn't sleep last night.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Back in the 80's, I constantly heard "You'll sleep enough when you're dead." or "Sleep is for wimps."

    And sleeping was for "lazy" people.

    I'm glad that we are becoming enlightened about the importance of sleep and that if anything, sleep makes one operate at their best.

  • May provide for insights into research on multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the body attacks its own myelin sheaths around nerves.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:41PM (#44759771)

    "A lot of people believe in working long days and doing double,triple, or even quadruple shifts. I’m not one of them. Neither Transmeta nor Linux has ever gotten in the way of a good night’s sleep. In fact, if you want to know the honest truth, I’m a firm believer in sleep. Some people think that’s just being lazy, but I want to throw my pillow at them. I have a perfectly valid excuse, and I’m standing by it: You may lose a few hours of your productive daytime if you sleep, oh, say, ten hours a day, but those few hours when you are awake, you are alert and your brain functions on all six cylinders. Or four or whatever."

    from "Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary" by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond

  • by mfwitten ( 1906728 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:41PM (#44759775)

    Is it possible that controlled sleep deprivation could result in the culling of strictly unnecessary brain cells, so that the overall result is a more power-efficient brain? The first time I pulled an all-nighter to work on mentally taxing problems, I had to sleep 19 hours to recover. After doing that kind of work regularly, only a few hours or recovery became necessary.

  • apnea (Score:5, Informative)

    by nblender ( 741424 ) on Wednesday September 04, 2013 @03:45PM (#44759813)

    I'd been living with sleep apnea for years, but didn't realize it. I just thought that getting up to pee 3 or 4 times in a night was normal for a 42 year old... Turns out it's not. It was my body's way of trying to figure out why it was awake and concluding it must be because my bladder was full. I did a sleep study and found that I would stop breathing 260 times in the first 3 hours of sleep after which time I started waking up and that was the end of the study... I was fitted with a sleep apnea dental appliance (the TAP3 device) and the first night I slept through the entire night for the first time in years... My wife kept waking up to make sure I was still breathing because I wasn't snoring or making any noise at all. After some adjustment, I can say I sleep like a baby now... I spent a lot of money on matresses and pillows before, thinking it was the bed's fault...

    The way the dental appliance works is by extending your lower jaw (as though you have a terrible underbite) which opens up your airway.

    Very occasionally, I will forget it when I go somewhere for an overnight, and I sleep like shit those nights... I wake up multiple times, have a sore throat in the morning (from snoring loudly), have no energy, and no motivation.

    I've had it for 2.5 years now and can't imagine life without it. I also can't imagine life with a CPAP machine though I hear they work great for some people.

  • I could feel it killing me, when I was forced to wake up too early as a child. I could feel it stretching my consciousness thin... the most appropriate description for the feeling is the one used by Bilbo Baggins; "... like butter scraped over too much bread."

    I predict that next they will discover that while 7 may be an absolute minimum for basic health, some people will need more depending on their brain capacity and "usage patterns." I predict they will eventually discover that having at least 8 hours

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      I predict the human race will die out within a generation if people follow your suggestions. I also guess you have never had kids.

      • Note: being a parent doesn't make you automatically right, or even more informed about basic health in any way whatsoever. Convenience to you doesn't automatically make it healthy for the kids either.

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          I'm not talking about kids' health. I'm talking about *having* kids. It is impossible to be a parent and consistently get a good night's sleep, thus it is impossible to have our neuroses cured and extend life by 20% without giving up kids. I know one of your lines mentioned childhood but the others do not, and if you meant to imply this is only for kids, that wasn't clear. And if you were talking exclusively about kids, most of them need far more than 10 hours in their early years, so it's confusing either

          • You're right. Sorry, I did misunderstand the implied context behind your statements, but you missed an important key behind mine too: Going without sleep a few nights now and then won't kill you or significantly injure your brain if you make it up within a day or so, even sleeping in the daylight if necessary. What I'm saying in fact is that being a good little cog in the capitalist machine, early to bed and early to rise and all that, and basically living your entire life on an average of 6 to 6.5 hours

            • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

              I'm not arguing against your point at all. I've noticed a direct correlation between the amount of sleep I get and general health. Back-to-back nights of less than 5 hours regularly makes me susceptible to colds, while at another point in my life when I was on a fantastic sleep schedule I went a year and a half without a hint of a sniffle or any other illness, despite living on a crowded college campus and going through the general stresses of higher education. There's also studies correlating poor sleep wi

      • P.S. you're a sadist. seek help.

  • Too many brain cells, and the brain doesn't know how to use them yet?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Narcocide ( 102829 )

      Because 16 hours is a long time to go without food, even if you are asleep the whole time. You need to strike an appropriate balance between rest and nutrition and activity. We have lost our natural rhythm.

  • I wonder if this might have something to do with the rise in rates of ALS and Parkinson's. Both related to degradation of the myelin sheath.
  • What if you don't sleep and just take drugs to boost myelin?
    • Other things will go wrong instead; its not just cellular structure that is replenished during sleep but critical fluid chemical balances as well.

      Luckily for you though, the United States military already has a drug [] to manually re-balance those other chemicals. It has been tested extensively for years and has been reported to keep your reaction times and accuracy levels to within well-rested parameters for up to 40 hours without any of the side effects of amphetamines traditionally used for such exercises.

  • ...that all of this is old news?

  • Dr. W.C. Dement []books are a good place to start if your interested in an overview of the importance of sleep. Sleep hygiene [] is probably the idea currently being pushed to the forefront. The idea that a good night's sleep is as much a part of overall health as other good hygiene practices.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 )

    I just run:


    at round about midnight.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"