Sleep Deprivation: Blood Markers of Brain Injury

Jonathan Cedernaes PhD Department of Neuroscience Uppsala University Interview with:
Jonathan Cedernaes PhD
Department of Neuroscience
Uppsala University  Sweden What are the main findings of this study?

Dr. Cedernaes:  We found that two peripheral blood markers were modestly but significantly increased in healthy young participants after a single night of sleep deprivation, as compared with a normal night of sleep. These two markers, S-100B and NSE, are for example used as markers of acute ischemic injury in the brain, and are also increased following concussions. S-100B is produced mainly by glial cells and also increases after injury to the blood brain barrier. NSE is instead produced by neurons and is regarded as being more specific for neuronal damage, although it can also be produced by peripheral cells. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Cedernaes:  It was unexpected that a single night could increase these two markers, elevations of which have previously been associated with acute brain trauma. It was also interesting that this occurred in healthy young men, all younger than 30 years of age. It was furthermore interesting that both markers increased as this could indicate damage to cells of the brain. This combination could therefore imply that sleep deprivation, if chronic, may be harmful to the brain. A single night of sleep loss is most likely however not harmful, and it is important to remember that the levels of these markers, i.e. the increase after sleep deprivation, were much lower than what is typically seen after for example acute head trauma and brain infections. What should patients and providers take away from this report?

Dr. Cedernaes:  As previous research has shown, getting enough and good sleep is important for many different reasons, for example metabolic regulation including body weight control, mood, memory and both physical and cognitive performance. Both clinicians and patients should therefore ideally discuss this issue regularly, especially as maintaining good sleep patterns is important for common conditions such as type-2 diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease. As epidemiological studies have also shown a link between poor sleep habits and the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and multiple sclerosis, our research emphasizes the importance of addressing sleep from the perspective of maintaining a healthy brain. What further research do you recommend as a result of your study?

Dr. Cedernaes:  Future studies are needed to verify our preliminary findings, and to resolve whether they indicate damage to cells of the brain, increased synthesis by peripheral sources, or damage to the blood brain barrier. The latter would also be of significant relevance as this could be important for drug delivery and how drugs reach the brain under different states of acute or chronic sleep deprivation. As we studied one single night of acute total sleep deprivation, it is also important to investigate how these markers are affected by partial sleep deprivation, especially under chronic conditions.


Acute sleep deprivation increases serum levels of neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and S100 calcium binding protein B (S-100B) in healthy young men

Benedict C; Cedernaes J; Giedraitis V; Nilsson EK; Hogenkamp PS; Vågesjö E; Massena S; Pettersson U; Christoffersson G; Phillipson M; Broman JE; Lannfelt L; Zetterberg H; Schiöth HB. Acute Sleep Deprivation Increases Serum Levels of Neuron-Specific Enolase (NSE) and S100 Calcium Binding Protein B (S-100B) in Healthy Young Men. SLEEP 2014;37(1):195-198.


Last Updated on January 10, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD