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Front Neurol. 2017 May 31;8:235. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00235. eCollection 2017.

Neural Consequences of Chronic Short Sleep: Reversible or Lasting?

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Department of Neurology, Changzheng Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China.
Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology, Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, United States.


Approximately one-third of adolescents and adults in developed countries regularly experience insufficient sleep across the school and/or work week interspersed with weekend catch up sleep. This common practice of weekend recovery sleep reduces subjective sleepiness, yet recent studies demonstrate that one weekend of recovery sleep may not be sufficient in all persons to fully reverse all neurobehavioral impairments observed with chronic sleep loss, particularly vigilance. Moreover, recent studies in animal models demonstrate persistent injury to and loss of specific neuron types in response to chronic short sleep (CSS) with lasting effects on sleep/wake patterns. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of the effects of chronic sleep disruption on neurobehavioral performance and injury to neurons, astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes and discuss what is known and what is not yet established for reversibility of neural injury. Recent neurobehavioral findings in humans are integrated with animal model research examining long-term consequences of sleep loss on neurobehavioral performance, brain development, neurogenesis, neurodegeneration, and connectivity. While it is now clear that recovery of vigilance following short sleep requires longer than one weekend, less is known of the impact of CSS on cognitive function, mood, and brain health long term. From work performed in animal models, CSS in the young adult and short-term sleep loss in critical developmental windows can have lasting detrimental effects on neurobehavioral performance.


developmental biology; locus coeruleus; neurodegeneration; sleep deprivation; vigilance performance

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