Bad News Everybody: Lack Of Sleep Causes The Brain To 'Eat Itself'
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Bad news insomniacs - a new study has found that sleep deprivation causes the brain to 'eat itself'. So, as well as being exhausted and looking like shit, I'm also eating my own brain. Perfect.
The study found that the brains of mice had more active 'clean-up' cells when they were sleep deprived. The cells, called astrocytes, sweep up worn out cells and give your brain a bit of a spring clean.
In the short-term, the clearing of these useless cells and rebuilding of worn circuits could be helping to keep the brain healthy and keep up good connections between cells.
However, if someone is long-term sleep deprived the cells can end up going into overdrive and researchers reckon it could cause harm in the long run, and also may explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at a higher risk of Alzheimers and other forms of dementia.
Research leader Michele Bellesi, who conducted the study at the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy, told New Scientist: "We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss."
However, Michele was quick to point out that much of these 'synapses' could do with being wiped away, comparing them to 'old pieces of furniture' in need of cleaning.
So far, so good. But the sleep deprived mice were found to have more active cells called microglial, which hunt around the brain looking for damaged cells and 'debris' to remove.
Michele continued: "We already know that sustained microglial activation has been observed in Alzheimer's and other forms of neurodegeneration."
The researchers now plan to investigate how long the effects
of sleep deprivation last and I plan on getting more than four hours sleep a night.
Previous research also found chronic sleep-deprivation can increase plaque in the brain, which is believed to be the main cause of dementia.
An additional study found not getting enough sleep could put
people at a higher risk of heart diseases, particularly in people with other
risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Shall we all have a nap?
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