Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Your Brain to Eat Itself

May 25, 2017

2:20 pm

Sleep deprivation does many things to our body, we feel fatigued, gravitate towards junk food to stay awake and certainly changes our mood, but eat our brains? That’s just wrong.

A new study by the Journal of Neuroscience by Michele Bellesi, et al. released their finding indicating that sleep deprivation could result in damage to the brain.

In the experiment, researchers analyzed mice who had varying levels of sleep and sleep disruption, and measured the synaptic connections in the frontal cortex. Synaptic connections play a vital role in the development of the brain and memory and the frontal cortex is mainly responsible for decision-making and the processing of short- and long-term memory.

sleep, deprivation, brain

They discovered that with the lack of sleep, glial cells in the brain, the ones mainly used for cleaning up the brain, began to consume deteriorating cells or brain excess.

“…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,” the research report said.

This cleaning up process may not be horrible if the brain is in fact removing the dead or deteriorating cells, but with the lack of sleep or chronic sleep deprivation its putting the wrong chemical mechanisms into overdrive.

The study also showed that with an extended amount of sleep deprivation it led to signs of specific cells (Microglial) being activated that are also found in brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

“This suggests that sleep loss can trigger astrocytes to start breaking down more of the brain’s connections and their debris. ‘We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss,’ says Bellesi,” in an article by the New Scientist.

If you want to keep yourself intact and limit the hangry of the brain, then prioritize your sleep and get some Zs.

Read more about getting a good night sleep at Tech.Co

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.

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