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The Sleep Debt Collector Is Here

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The Sleep Debt Collector Is Here

Recent studies in humans and mice have shown that late nights and early mornings may cause long lasting damage to your brain.

The New York Times,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

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Sleep debt can cost you more than just drowsiness. You might pay interest in the form of brain damage.

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Eye Opening


Have you ever told yourself “I’ll catch up on my sleep later,” while staying out late and cutting back on your sleep? New York Times reporter Oliver Whang lays out the conclusions of a new sleep research review. Neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey and researcher Zachary Zamore found consistently reducing sleep hours might cause long-term brain damage and increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. They debunk the myth that sleep debt is something you can pay off.


​​​Contrary to what scientists had assumed, you can’t go into sleep debt and repay it later.

For years, scientists believed people could cut their sleep hours for a few nights without causing severe harm to their bodies, as long as they slept off their debt later. Studies in humans and rats had connected the adverse effects of sleep deprivation to a spike of the chemical adenosine. A few nights of good rest stabilized the chemical’s levels, so scientists concluded sleep debt didn’t have long-term repercussions for health. But a new review article by neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey and researcher...

About the Author

Oliver Whang is a reporting fellow for The New York Times.

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