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Lack of sleep can literally make your brain eat itself

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Dave Fawbert
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We’re all obsessed with sleep aren’t we? Are we getting enough? Are we getting too much? Are you tired because you sleep too little, or because you just went and overslept? Oh the small talk we can make about sleeping can go on for hours (hours that we wish we could spend sleeping because I just don’t get enough these days you know, especially since the kids came along ha ha!111!!!). Well, you shouldn’t be joking about it because it turns out that lack of sleep can LITERALLY MAKE YOUR BRAIN EAT ITSELF.

Have we got your attention now? Good, now read on, and make it quick because you’ll want to be catching those zzzzs tonight for goddamn sure.

A new study, conducted by Michele Bellesi of the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, saw mice subjected to regular sleep, spontaneous wake, sleep deprivation and chronic sleep deprivation.

They then used block-face scanning software to measure the synapses and cell processes in the frontal cortexes of the mice.

They found that sleep-deprived mice showed increased activity with astrocyte cells, and chronically sleep-deprived mice had increased activity of microglial activation.

“We show for the first time that portions of the synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss,” Bellesi told New Scientist. However, he explained that this is not necessarily a bad thing, since it could be the brain’s way of “cleaning” up old brain debris. Still, it is brain-eating, and we’re not entirely comfortable with that, even if it might be good brain-eating.

However, the increased microglial activation from chronic lack of sleep is definitely not so good. These cells scavenge for damaged or unnecessary neurons or agents in the brain, and it is known that low-level sustained activation of them can lead to serious brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. So this is very much bad brain-eating.

A bit like Hannibal then.

(Image: AllStar)

[via Independent]

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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