If you’re thinking about staying up past your bedtime, be aware that your brain could begin eating itself, say scientists.
A study out of Marche Polytechnic University in Italy tested two groups of mice to determine the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain.
The first group was able to sleep for as long as it wanted, while the second group was kept awake for five days.
Research found that the mice that had been kept awake had more active astrocytes, cells that travel around the brain removing nerve structures and neural connections, as well as damaged cells.
So-called glial cells were active in 13.5 per cent of chronically sleep-deprived cases, twice the number of well-rested cases.
“We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss,” says Michele Bellesi from the Marche Polytechnic University.
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The results also suggest lack of sleep could be a factor in developing dementia.
“In the short term, this [process] might be beneficial – cleaning potentially harmful debris and rebuilding worn circuitry might protect healthy brain connections,” adds Bellesi. “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.”
If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, try what 7 sleep experts do when they can’t doze off.