New Terrific Discovery: Lack Of Sleep Can Make Your Brain Cannibal

girl with insomnia sitting on bed
Mateus Lunardi Dutra | Flickr

Do you like sleeping? How many hours do you normally sleep? Do you love to go around at night and give up on some sleeping hours because you think life is made to be lived rather than ‘wasted’ in bed?


If you think you don’t really need to sleep a lot, a new research discovered the lack of sleep can lead your brain to ‘eat itself’: according to this new research by Michele Bellesi at the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy, a chronic sleep deprivation can cause part of the brain’s synapses to be ‘eaten’ by other brain cells.

The base:

Scientists studied the brains of three groups of mice. In the first one mice could sleep as much as they wanted; mice belonging to the second group had been kept awake for eight hours in a row; in the third group they hadn’t slept for five days.

mice in laboratory

The observation:

Scientists observed how ‘astrocytes’ cells work. These cells have the task to clean out worn-out cells and debris. When mice had been deprived of sleep, these cells were more active and broke down more of the brain’s connections.

According to the research, “’astrocytic phagocytosis’ may represent the brain’s response to the increase in synaptic activity associated with prolonged wake, clearing worn components of heavily used synapses.”

But if in the short term the activity of these cells is positive because it ‘gets rid’ of old and useless synapses, something different and more dangerous may happen in the long term.

insomnia effects on your brain damages
Allan Ajifo | Wikimedia Commons


When the brain becomes ‘cannibal’:

In fact, scientists analysed also the ‘microglial’ brain cells – which seek out damaged cells and debris – and observed they are more active in brains with a chronic sleep deprivation. The ‘microglial phagocytosis’ of synaptic elements were enhanced, without obvious signs of neuroinflammation.

“We already know that sustained ‘microglial’ activation has been observed in Alzheimer’s and other forms of neurodegeneration”, Bellesi said.

In the research he also wrote: “extended sleep disruption may lead to a state of sustained ‘microglia’ activation, perhaps increasing the brain’s susceptibility to other forms of damage.”

Have you ever experienced some lack of sleep? How do you feel? For sure, when I don’t sleep enough my memory is ‘broken’ and my cognitive ability is reduced. What about you?


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