How Sleep Helps Clean Your Brain

Originally found on http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-sleep-helps-clean-your-brain.html

In addition to the many other health benefits of sleep, it’s been shown sleep plays a role in detoxifying your brain. Researchers believe this may be one of the primary reasons why we need to sleep. Read on to find out why this is important for your health and how you can improve your own sleep to reap the benefits.

What does your brain do while you sleep?

Research published in the journal Science revealed that certain brain cells shrink during sleep. This opens up gaps between brain tissues and allows fluid to wash away neurological waste products.

The brain’s waste removal system is called the glymphatic system, which the study found is actually 10 times more active during sleep.

The fluid that circulates in the brain is known as cerebrospinal fluid. It’s created by the brain in order to bring in nutrients and remove wastes through the blood-brain barrier, a natural wall that exists around the brain to prevent it from directly touching blood and blood-borne pathogens.

An increased flow of cerebrospinal fluid will bring more nutrients and clear out more junk from your brain. And all you need to do for these benefits is get some sleep.

What This Means for Your Health

Researchers feel this detoxification is a vital survival function that is not possible when you are awake. It seems the brain cannot process daily information and carry out cleaning processes at the same time. The brain needs downtime to cleanse itself properly.

This is consistent with research that shows multitasking in waking life is also ineffective. The brain is made to focus on one thing at a time.

The brain’s cleaning functions could also potentially help prevent certain brain disorders. Diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s are partially caused by a build-up of damaged proteins in the brain. It’s possible getting more sleep could help clear out these sorts of damaging waste products.

Researchers recommended further studies on whether or not sleep could provide a protective effect against such diseases.

Not getting enough sleep is also linked to much higher rates of heart disease, stroke, depression, infections and shorter lives. It’s definitely in your best interest to get the sleep you need.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Try some of these suggestions to promote your best quality sleep.

Get on the clock. Your natural biological clock helps you fall asleep easily and wake up feeling refreshed. The best way to support this is to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, including weekends.

Sleep with your brain’s natural cycles. Your brain naturally moves through 90-minute cycles throughout the night, going from lighter sleep, into dreaming, then a deep sleep state. Try to sleep for either seven and a half hours a night or nine hours to make sure you complete full, 90-minute cycles.

Leave your problems at the door. Sleeping is a time for rest, not a time to solve your life’s problems. If you find yourself ruminating too long instead of sleeping, try saying to yourself, “I’m now clear about the problem. I’ll go to sleep and let my inner mind work it out.” Then pay attention to what comes up in the morning.

Eliminate negative self-talk. If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t stare at the clock and stress about how you’re never going to get to sleep, or how awful you’re going to feel tomorrow. Projecting a negative state into the future will only raise your stress hormones further. Take a deep breath and try to visualize the day you want to have instead.

Look at your day. Did you not get enough exercise? Did you drink too much caffeine or alcohol before bed? There are many physical issues that can prevent a good night’s sleep. Check out these sleep mistakes and their solutions to see what might be keeping you awake.

Written by Zoe Blarowski

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