Research carried out at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found that brain cells stop communicating properly when individuals are tired.
The findings are that brain cells produced significantly weaker signals or turned themselves off completely to rest, even though the person is still awake, leading to slower reaction times and impaired cognitive function.
Additionally, it was also noted that participant’s brain waves slowed down, suggesting
the brain was attempting to go to sleep.
Professor of Neurological Surgery, Dr Itzhak Fried stated: “Starving the body of sleep also robs neurons of the ability to function properly.” If the neurons are not working properly, this can lead to cognitive lapses in how we both perceive and react to the world.
This research has a very real implication in our everyday life as a slow reaction time could be fatal if a driver with an over-tired brain fails to note a pedestrian crossing the road. It has long been speculated by sleep experts that driving whilst tired is as bad as drink driving. However, this is the first piece of conclusive proof that could be the case. These findings could have worrying consequences as the UK law does not ban or punish those who drive whilst overtired.