Of tired mice and men

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Just so you know, I've been pulling two, 12-hour shifts of living per day for the past 53 years, and I'm exhausted. I work when I sleep and I sleep when I work, which means I don't do either one very well. I've even talked to my supervisor about this, to no avail. He's an unreasonable ogre named Gary Tetz, and all he cares about is himself. 

So I may not be an actual nurse or CNA, but I know how it feels to lose sleep regularly, and it turns out I'm right to worry about what it's doing to my brain.

In a recent study reported by CNN, volunteer shift-working mice at the University of Pennsylvania who were deprived of regular sleep eventually started losing brain cells at an accelerated rate. And brain cells, as you may know, are very important to actual thinking and decision-making.

And here's something else to keep us awake: Trying to catch up with naps during off days may not actually do any good because the damage has probably already been done, according to Sigrid Veasey, M.D., a neuroscientist who worked on the project.

Veasey claims this is the first research to show that chronic sleep deprivation can cause an actual loss of neurons, but I should point out that scientists seem to say a lot of crazy stuff like that. 

Although mice aren't people, long-term care managers might want to start thinking radical thoughts, such as eliminating what McKnight's blogger Nurse Jackie describes as “back-to-back shifts, 12-hour shifts days and days in a row, or endless days on end without a day off.”  This type of scheduling is unrealistic and dangerous, she claims, and
I believe her. After all, she is The
Real Nurse Jackie. 

Veasey and her team aren't resting on their findings, and apparently the next step is a post-mortem on real, dead shift workers to determine the actual effects of chronic sleep loss on humans. So we sleep-deprived zombies also have that to look forward to. 


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