Lack of Sleep can cause brain to start 'eating' itself: Research

Lack of Sleep can cause brain to start 'eating' itself: Research

Everyone knows that lack of sleep can have a major impact on well-being but a new research has discovered that lack of sleep on a regular basis can cause brain to start 'eating' itself. The stunning discovery was made by research team at the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy. The research team added that lack of sleep can result in brain cells eating up some brain synapses. Astrocytes are cells in our brain that have the task of cleaning out worn-out cells and other unwanted matter. The study team noticed that astrocytes were more active after lack of sleep.

The study team conducted their experiment on lab mice and noticed that when mice were sleep-deprived, astrocytes were found breaking down brain synapses. Detailed report of the research team from Italy has been published in New Scientist. Sleep is important for proper brain function and it also offers rest. The study team added that more research is needed on the subject. The brain synapses impacted due to sleep-deprivation were more mature and larger. The research team informed, “They are like old pieces of furniture, and so probably need more attention and cleaning.”

The research team allowed some mice from control group to have adequate sleep. Some of them were not allowed to sleep and their condition mimicked chronic sleep loss. The research team noticed that after an undisturbed sleep, astrocytes appeared to be active in around six per cent of the synapses in the brains of the well-rested mice. Among sleep-deprived mice, astrocytes were more active in 13.5 per cent of the brain synapses.

Lead researcher Michele Bellesi said, “We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss. We already know that sustained microglial activation has been observed in Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurodegeneration.”

The research team further informed, “In the short term, this might be beneficial - clearing potentially harmful debris and rebuilding worn circuitry might protect healthy brain connections. But it may cause harm in the long term, and could explain why a chronic lack of sleep puts people at risk of Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders.”

The current research reminds us about importance of sleep for our general well-being. Keeping an adequate sleep schedule can be effective in staying healthy and fresh. Chronic sleep loss can lead to serious health issues. People with sleep issues should seek medical help to figure out the cause of sleep loss and take adequate treatment or therapy.

The research team further informed…

We find that astrocytic phagocytosis of synaptic elements, mostly of presynaptic origin and in large synapses, is upregulated already after a few hours of sleep deprivation and shows a further significant increase after prolonged and severe sleep loss, suggesting that it may promote the housekeeping of heavily used and strong synapses in response to the increased neuronal activity of extended wake. By contrast, chronic sleep restriction but not acute sleep loss activates microglia, promotes their phagocytic activity, and does so in the absence of overt signs of neuroinflammation, suggesting that like many other stressors, extended sleep disruption may lead to a state of sustained microglia activation, perhaps increasing the brain's susceptibility to other forms of damage.

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