Total sleep deprivation increases brain age prediction reversibly in multi-site samples of young healthy adults

Congying Chu, Sebastian C Holst, Eva-Maria Elmenhorst, Anna L Foerges, Changhong Li, Denise Lange, Eva Hennecke, Diego M Baur, Simone Beer, Felix Hoffstaedter, Gitte Moos Knudsen, Daniel Aeschbach, Andreas Bauer, Hans-Peter Landolt, David Elmenhorst*

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde


Sleep loss pervasively affects the human brain at multiple levels. Age-related changes in several sleep characteristics indicate that reduced sleep quality is a frequent characteristic of aging. Conversely, sleep disruption may accelerate the aging process, yet it is not known what will happen to the age status of the brain if we can manipulate sleep conditions. To tackle this question, we used an approach of brain age to investigate whether sleep loss would cause age-related changes in the brain. We included MRI data of 134 healthy volunteers (mean chronological age of 25.3 between the age of 19 and 39 years, 42 females/92 males) from five datasets with different sleep conditions. Across three datasets with the condition of total sleep deprivation (>24 h of prolonged wakefulness), we consistently observed that total sleep deprivation increased brain age by 1-2 years regarding the group mean difference with the baseline. Interestingly, after one night of recovery sleep, brain age was not different from baseline. We also demonstrated the associations between the change in brain age after total sleep deprivation and the sleep variables measured during the recovery night. By contrast, brain age was not significantly changed by either acute (3 h time-in-bed for one night) or chronic partial sleep restriction (5 h time-in-bed for five continuous nights). Together, the convergent findings indicate that acute total sleep loss changes brain morphology in an aging-like direction in young participants and that these changes are reversible by recovery sleep.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Sleep is fundamental for humans to maintain normal physical and psychological functions. Experimental sleep deprivation is a variable-controlling approach to engaging the brain among different sleep conditions for investigating the responses of the brain to sleep loss. Here, we quantified the response of the brain to sleep deprivation by using the change of brain age predictable with brain morphologic features. In three independent datasets, we consistently found increased brain age after total sleep deprivation, which was associated with the change in sleep variables. Moreover, no significant change in brain age was found after partial sleep deprivation in another two datasets. Our study provides new evidence to explain the brainwide effect of sleep loss in an aging-like direction.

TidsskriftThe Journal of Neuroscience
Udgave nummer12
Sider (fra-til)2168-2177
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 22 mar. 2023


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