Shift workers may suffer brain damage, study shows

Shift workers may suffer permanent brain damage, according to a recent study.

CNN -- A new study from the University of Pennsylvania may have you rethinking your sleep schedule -- especially for those with overnight, odd, or constantly changing work schedules.

This study finds that lack of sleep due to shift work is causing irreversible brain damage.

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience details the concerning news for people who work outside of normal work hours.

It found that the long-term sleep deprivation suffered by people working these hours takes power away from the brain -- even if you are able to catch up on sleep -- and kills brain cells.

The researchers say to compare this to a lasting brain injury and here's how they reached the conclusion: they put lab mice through a sleep schedule that mirrors shift workers.

They found that the bundle of nerves in the brain, which is associated with alertness and cognitive function, had lots of damage. The mice lost 25 percent of these neurons. And they found that if losing sleep became a habit rather than happening only occasionally, the brain cells didn't protect themselves naturally like they should. Even just after a few days of repeated loss of sleep, the cells started dying off at what researchers said is an accelerated pace.

So now, the researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are planning to study deceased shift workers to see if they have the same nerve damage in their brains. Their potential end goal is to develop a medicine that could help people cope with odd work hours.