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Lack Of Sleep Causes The Brain To ‘Eat Itself’ In Order To Clean Unwanted Cells But Could Develop Alzheimer’s Disease, Studies Reveal

By N. Gutierrez staff@sciencetimes.com | May 29, 2017 06:03 PM EDT

Many people experience a lack of sleep. But amid some people warning them that lack of sleep brings harmful effects to the brain, a research team from Italy discovered that being sleep-deprived may have a benefit to the brain as well.

According to Perfscience, the research team from Italy's Marche Polytechnic University had discovered that clean-up cells known as astrocytes are more active when the brain is sleep deprived. The team found out in their study conducted on lab mice that microglial cells in lab rats were more active.

The study conducted involved two groups of lab mice. The first group consisted of mice who were allowed to sleep whenever they wanted. Meanwhile, the second group has the lab mice mimic chronic sleep loss and was kept awake for five days straight. The team then discovered that the mice who were sleep-deprived have their clean-up cells clearing brain synapses, connections and other unwanted matters in the brain.

More so, the sleep-deprived mice were discovered to have 13.5 percent of their brain synapses cleared compared to that of the 6 percent brain synapses of those controlled mice that had adequate sleep. However, they noted that lack of sleep may lead the brain to have Alzheimer’s disease symptoms and other neurological disorders.

“In the short term, this might be beneficial - clearing potentially harmful debris and rebuilding worn circuitry might protect healthy brain connections. 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,” lead author Michele Bellesi said in a statement per Mail Online. 

With that said, another study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association contradicts the positivity of the clean-up cells being active from lack of sleep. The study discovered that people that sleep less than six hours a night are exposed to a high risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

The team that conducted the study involved 1,344 adults as participants whom in one night in a laboratory. After being assessed for 16.6 years, the result was concluded to have those who slept less than six hours every night since the day of the experiment were 2.1 times more likely to die of heart disease or stroke. The participants who slept more than six hours were then found out to be 1.49 times more likely to die.

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