Sleep loss refers to sleep of shorter duration than the average baseline need of seven to eight hours per night. Sleep loss and sleep deprivation have severe effects on human health. In this article, we review the main aspects of sleep loss, taking into account its effects on the central nervous system. The neurocognitive and behavioral effects of sleep loss are well known. However, there is an increasing amount of research pointing to sleep deprivation as a risk factor for neurologic diseases, namely stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, headache, epilepsy, pain, and somnambulism. Conversely, sleep loss has been reported to be a potential protective factor against Parkinson's disease. The pathophysiology involved in this relationship is multiple, comprising immune, neuroendocrine, autonomic, and vascular mechanisms. It is extremely important to identify the individuals at risk, since recognition and adequate treatment of their sleep problems may reduce the risk of certain neurologic disorders.
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