Lost sleep can DESTROY your brain cells!

There's nothing in the world quite like waking up on a lazy weekend morning after a full night of snoozing.

No alarm clock.

No appointments.

No pressure... no stress... no problem!

If only EVERY day could feel like that, right?

Well, friend, life might be too busy to toss the alarm clock. But it should never be too busy to sacrifice your sleep.

And if you're falling short, it's time to make some adjustments -- because the latest research shows how poor sleep can lead to the kind of damage inside your brain that's been linked directly to Alzheimer's disease.

That's especially scary news, considering the disease is far deadlier than we ever imagined, as I shared with you earlier this week.

In the new study, researchers put mice through experiments involving both short-term sleep loss and conditions that mimic chronic struggles with shuteye.

Even with short-term sleep loss, the researchers saw a frightening change in the glial cells, which are part of the brain's internal maintenance system.

They're a bit like electricians, working to rewire and remodel the synapses, or the network that allows information to flow between neurons.

One cell in particular, called an astrocyte, essentially helps trim synapses of unnecessary branches.

In mice with normal sleep, those electricians were active in about 6 percent of the synapses. But when they missed out on sleep over the short term, their activity jumped by about a third to 8 percent.

Even worse, chronic sleep problems more than doubled their activity to 13.5 percent.

That's a sign they could be trimming and pruning unnecessarily, hitting even healthy synapses -- which, in turn, could damage and disrupt your brain's internal communications network.

And that's not the only change.

In mice induced to have chronic sleep problems, microglial cells went absolutely haywire.

In ideal circumstances, microglial cells hunt for damage and brain debris. But when they get overactive, they could end up sweeping out good cells along with the bad ones.

Don't dismiss this because it was a study on mice.

In people, an overactive microglial response is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders -- many of which, not coincidentally, are often accompanied by sleep struggles.

Sometimes, poor habits such as too much late-night television lead to poor sleep.

But in many cases, especially in older folks, those bedtime battles have nothing to do with TV habits. They're often a result of a hidden problem inside the body that needs some attention.

Gobbling a sleeping pill won't fix that problem.

Instead, try something safer in the short term -- like valerian or melatonin -- so you can get the rest you need each night.

But since these won't fix the underlying problem either, don't stop there. A holistic medical doctor can test you for all the causes of sleep loss and help you get it under control so you can rest easy every night.

And if you're in the San Diego area, I can help. Make an appointment to see me here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.

Not in the area? I'm also available for advice by phone. Call 855-DOC-MARK to schedule a consultation.

And don't forget to connect with me on Facebook!