Sleep deprivation warning: THIS is why you should never pull an all-nighter and drive

Sleep deprivation is when you don’t get enough sleep, and feel tired during the day.

In the long-term it has also been linked to conditions such as dementia, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

While it has long been known that lack of sleep slows down reaction time, it hasn’t been clear just how it affects brain activity.

However, a new study has shed light on why sleep deprivation affects behaviour.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered individual neurons - specialised cells considered the ‘building blocks’ of the nervous system - slow down when we are sleep deprived.

This leads to delayed responses to the world around us - which if you are doing particular activities, can prove dangerous.

“When a cat jumps into the path of our car at night, the very process of seeing the cat slows us down,” said Dr Yuval Nir, from Tel Aviv University.

“We're therefore slow to hit the brakes, even when we're wide awake.

“When we're sleep-deprived, a local intrusion of sleep-like waves disrupts normal brain activity while we're performing tasks."

“Since drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, we hope to one day translate these results into a practical way of measuring drowsiness in tired individuals before they pose a threat to anyone or anything.”

Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of 0.05 - or officially drunk - according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Researchers recorded the neuron activity of 12 patients.

After keeping them awake all night, they were presented with images of famous people and places and asked ton identify them as quickly as possible.

"Performing this task is difficult when we're tired and especially after pulling an all-nighter," said Dr Nir. 

"The data gleaned from the experiment afforded us a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the human brain. 

“It revealed that sleepiness slows down the responses of individual neurons, leading to behavioural lapses."

The National Sleep Foundation recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, and taking particular supplements can help you drop off.