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Web Exclusive: Study finds shift work, lack of sleep kills brain cells

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(CNN) - New research shows lack of sleep due to shift work is causing irreversible brain damage.  Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience brings the concerning news for people who work outside of normal hours of work, like truck drivers or doctors on the graveyard shift.  

They found that long-term sleep deprivation by working these hours takes away power from the brain, even if you are able to catch up on sleep and it kills brain cells.  The researchers say to compare this to a lasting brain injury. They put lab mice through a sleep schedule that mirrors shift workers.  

They found that the bundle of nerves in the brain, which is associated with alertness and cognitive function, had lots of damage.  The mice lost 25-percent of these neurons. And they found the brains didn't protect themselves naturally like they should if losing sleep became a habit.  Even just after a few days, the cells started dying off at what they say is an accelerated pace.

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