Research reported by the Independent showed major changes in the brains of mice suffering from sleep deprivation.

“We show for the first time that portions of the synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss,” Mr Bellesi told the New Scientist. He added that it is not necessarily a bad thing as it could just be the brain’s way of “cleaning” up old brain “debris”.

The study also looked at the effect on microglial cells which account for around 15 per cent of cells found within the brain. These cells scavenge around for plaques, damaged or unnecessary neurons or agents in the brain and are also found in the spinal cord.

The study showed that chronic sleep restriction (which in this case was five days of being kept awake) led to increased signs of microglial activation. Because low-level sustained activation of the microglial cells can lead to serious brain disorders, Mr Bellesi said these results were more concerning.

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