Poor sleep kills off essential neurons

That hazy-dazy feeling you get after a night of short sleep might seem to fade after a second (or third) cup of coffee. But don't kid yourself, because the damage from lack of sleep never really fades at all.

The harm is lasting and even permanent, as failing to get the rejuvenating rest your body needs can kill off some of the most critical cells in your brain.

In a new study on mice, missed sleep caused a 25 percent drop in neurons in a region of the brain called the locus coeruleus.

That's the part you rely on for both mental alertness and overall cognitive function.

Yes... all your brain cells are important, but these neurons are some of the most critical of all.

They're so essential that your brain has a mechanism in place to protect them from lack of sleep. When you fall short, you produce extra sirtuin type 3, a protein that helps keep those locus coeruleus neurons from dying off.

But when you consistently fall short, the protein essentially gives up. Production tails off, and the neurons die.

Perhaps the most frightening part of this study is that it shows you can't really catch up. If you miss sleep often on weekdays, as so many do, but sleep in on weekends, those brain cells will still disappear faster than a politician's campaign promise after Election Day.

And that's not the only reason to make sure you sleep right every night.

A second new study confirms something we've seen before: When you lose sleep, your body loses the ability to metabolize sugar in the blood -- and that's why poor sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

Making matters worse, lack of sleep also messes with your ability to watch what you eat -- so you eat too much (and, from what I've seen, people who stay up too late tend to eat all the wrong things, too).

And when you miss out on sleep, your body has a hard time using energy, so it stores it by turning it into... you guessed it: fat!

If you're having trouble sleeping, don't wait for it to turn into a brain disorder or diabetes. Take action now with natural sleep remedies.

And for one more reason to make sure you get control of your sleep problems, keep reading.