Sleep may help the brain replenish its cells and repair itself more quickly, Science Daily reported.
In a study in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers sought to discover how sleep affects the production of oligodendrocytes – the cells responsible for creating myelin in the brain. Produced in both healthy brains and in response to injury, myelin acts as insulation for both the brain and spinal cord, allowing the brain’s electrical impulses to move from cell to cell.
Researchers studied two groups of mice – one group allowed to sleep normally and another deprived of sleep – comparing their gene activation related to myelin production. The team discovered that genes allowing for myelin formation were turned on during sleep, while genes linked to cell death and stress were activated when animals were sleep deprived, according to Science Daily.
"These findings hint at how sleep or lack of sleep might repair or damage the brain," Mehdi Tafti, of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who was not involved with this study, said in a news release.
Study author Dr. Chiara Cirelli, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, also suggested that these findings could indicate that chronic sleep loss may exacerbate some symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis.