You know that foggy feeling you get when you’re tired? You’ve been burning the midnight oil lately. You’re staying late at work, losing sleep to do school work, prepare a presentation or take care of a newborn. Your vision is blurry, you have trouble concentrating, you begin to experience memory loss and feel like you’re walking around in a fog. According to a new study, that’s because your brain starts to eat itself when you’re sleep deprived.
of the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy conducted a sleep deprivation study on mice. His team studied the brains of mice that had been allowed to sleep for as long as they wanted or had been kept awake for eight hours. One group of mice were kept awake for five days in a row to mimmick the effects of chronic sleep loss.
The researchers specifically looked at glial cells. Past research has shown that a gene that regulates the activity of glial cells is more active after a sleep deprivation period. Glial cells known as astrocytes get rid of unnecessary synapses in the brain to remodel wiring. Glial cells known as microglial cells search the brain for damaged cells and debris.
The team found that after undisturbed sleep, astrocytes were active in around 6% of the synapses in the brains of the mice that were well-rested. Astrocytes were more active in mice that were sleep-deprived. Mice that had lost eight hours of sleep showed 8% activity. Mice that were chronically sleep-deprived showed 13.5% astrocyte activity.
The study suggests that sleep loss can trigger astrocytes to break down more of the brain’s cells and debris. Bellesi explained, “We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss.”
The researchers also found that microglial cells were more active after chronic sleep deprivation, which is a worrisome finding. Excessive microglial activity has been linked to several different brain disorders. Bellesi said, “We already know that sustained microglial activation has been observed in Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurodegeneration.”
Most of us know that sleep deprivation can cause difficulty concentrating, impaired performance and memory problems, among other undesirable side effects. Sleep is essential for a healthy brain and a healthy body. If that brain fog you’ve been experiencing isn’t enough to ensure you’re getting the right amount of sleep, the findings of this study might just be the all the convincing you need!
Watch the video below for more information on the importance of sleep for a healthy brain:
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