From Harvard Medical School (June 4, 2020):
“We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation. We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death,” said senior study author Dragana Rogulja, assistant professor of neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.
The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a widely cited study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers in 1989 showed that a total lack of sleep inevitably leads to death. Yet, despite decades of study, a central question has remained unsolved: Why do animals die when they don’t sleep?
Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have identified an unexpected, causal link between sleep deprivation and premature death.