A vast body of research has confirmed the importance of sleep for maintaining proper health, and many of the restorative properties of sleep are well-known. For example, we all know that sleep is required to help repair damaged tissue. And from the time we were little, we were told that extra sleep is needed if we have a cold or illness.
However new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience adds shocking new evidence to the understanding of the importance of sleep. Building on the well-known fact that sleep allows the glymphatic system to remove waste from the brain in order to keep it healthy, a team of researchers at the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy looked more deeply into this process.
The brain has two types of cells which maintain proper brain health: microglial cells, which remove cells that are old or unhealthy; and astrocyte cells, which destroy unnecessary synapses, links between neurons in the brain. The amount of activity of these two types of cells is exceptionally important. There is a balance between overactivity and underactivity which must be maintained. The question the researchers investigated was whether this balance was disrupted by an inadequate amount of sleep.
The researchers divided a group of mice into four groups, each of which was given a specific sleep schedule. The sleep schedules ranged from well-rested to chronically sleep-deprived. Later, the researchers compared the microglial and astrocytic activity between the four groups.
The researchers found that less sleep was directly linked with an increase in astrocytic activity. This means that more synapses were targeted for destruction. However, the extra synapses targeted were the least healthy synapses, and were therefore relatively ready to be removed anyway.
However, when the researchers looked at the microglial activity among the four groups of mice, they discovered that microglial activity also increased in the chronically sleep-deprived mice. Since previous research has already determined that increased microglial activity is connected with a wide range of brain disorders, including dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, this finding is very important.
The frightening conclusion of this study is that chronic sleep deprivation will cause the brain’s microglial cells to literally consume and destroy healthy cells in the brain. In other words, it directly causes the brain to destroy itself.
At Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, we know that maintaining proper sleep habits helps our patients get back to their optimal level of functioning and independence as quickly as possible. We pride ourselves on healing the entire patient through a holistic and individualized approach. Our meticulous care planning helps us ensure that each and every resident receives the best in clinical care, support and unconditional love.
For over 25 years, we have been a staple of health and wellness, serving the members of our community and partnering with our local hospitals like Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel, NJ and Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, NJ.
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