A Lack Of Sleep Makes Your Brain Eat Itself
Lack of sleep accelerates the action of the cells responsible for brain cleaning, which end up destroying essential neurological tissue.
In previous research it has already been concluded that a single night of insomnia is enough to produce irreparable brain damage; In the long term, such brain damage even becomes permanent.
Now a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has gone further, investigating how it is produced and to what extent it affects. In conclusion, it has been discovered that the cells responsible for brain cleaning accelerate can destroy brain connections and even healthy neurons.
During a normal sleep habit, glial cells are responsible for cleaning toxins at the brain level i.e. for destroying and digesting worn-out cell debris or potentially harmful metabolic debris.
However, during insomnia, this situation accelerates. In the short term this can even be beneficial, as accelerating the cleanliness and reconstruction of healthy brain connections can be of great help. However, in the long term, insomnia can increase the risk and even trigger neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's or other disorders, as claimed by Michele Bellesi and his colleagues at the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy.
These effects have been discovered for the moment in mice: a group of mice that were allowed to sleep at will was compared with another group of mice that were kept awake for another eight hours. Finally, a third group of mice stayed awake for five seconds to mimic chronic insomnia.
The glial cells of the brains of the mice - the brain cleansing cells - were analyzed. A certain type of these cells, astrocytes, are responsible for cleaning up unnecessary brain connections; On the other hand, the microglia cells are responsible for cleaning the brain of debris and damaged cells.
Insomnia and accelerated brain cleaning
After a normal restful sleep, the astrocytes were in an activity of 6%, while in a brain that suffers from lack of sleep, the activity goes up to 8% and even up to 13.5% if said lack of sleep becomes chronic.
Lack of sleep could cause brain connections to break more than the bill. This could be somewhat beneficial in the short term, as brain connections must be remodeled every so often when they become "old."
However, on the other hand, it was also discovered that microglia cells also increased their activity during sleep deprivation, and that is worrisome: if the activity of this type of cells is accelerated, neurological diseases can be triggered. In fact, microglia cells have already been linked to diseases such as Alzheimer, schizophrenia, depression and even damage caused by chronic marijuana use.
At the moment it is not clear if sleeping more could protect the brain or avoid these harmful effects related to insomnia. According to the researchers, there is much to investigate about it.