- Losing sleep may actually shrink some areas of your brain.
- Researchers are unsure which comes first: gray matter loss or sleeplessness.
- The findings could lead to new treatment plans for insomnia.
Chronic insomniacs losing out on sleep may also be missing brain matter.
For the first time, brain imaging has linked chronic insomnia to lower gray matter density in areas that regulate the brain's ability to make decisions and to rest. The research could lead to new treatment plans for people who struggle with sleeplessness.
"The findings predict that chronic insomnia sufferers may have compromised capacities to evaluate the affective value of stimuli," said Ellemarijie Altena, lead author of the study from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. "This could have consequences for other cognitive processes, notably decision-making."
The study, published in Biological Psychiatry, compared the white and gray matter volumes of 24 older, chronic insomnia patients to 13 normal sleepers, and controlled for physical and psychiatric disorders that could also alter brain densities.