Who knew?!?! It turns out that our brains have their own “waste management” policy. The newest body of sleep research published in the current issue of the online journal Science has revealed that sleep actually detoxes the brain by removing waste products linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In essence, a good night’s sleep is to our brains what juicing is to our bodies.
Alzheimer’s is the result of a build up of amyloid beta protein clusters in the brain; according to Dr Maiken Nedergaard, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center, sleep flushes out these proteins along with other neural waste into the bloodstream. He attributes this drainage process to what he refers to as the glymphatic system, which is ten times more active during sleep. Onward, through the sludge!
“Sleep ’tis a Blessed Thing”
Certainly, this is good news, but for some getting a good night’s sleep can be as illusive as a fickle love interest — it can be more difficult to control than diet and exercise because unlike other healthy habits, willing ourselves to sleep doesn’t work very well.
Sure, there are a number of sleep medications available via prescription, but they can have some crazy-weird side effects. My friend Julie tried one of them, and was delighted that she got sleepy quickly. After she toddled off to bed, she came back in the living room where her husband was watching a movie; she then got up and got out her foot sauna and started soaking her feet. Sounds relaxing, right? Problem was, she didn’t remember doing any of it the following day.
Catching the Most Zzzzz’s
According to the National Institutes of Health, 10% of American adults have chronic insomnia, while another 25% experience it at least occasionally. Insomnia, defined as the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or experience restorative sleep is a by-product of the times, at least to some extent.
Dr. Tracy Tracy Marks, Huffington Post contributor and author of “Master Your Sleep – Proven Methods Simplified” writes that cramming our days with activity with no time to unwind is a recipe for restless sleep. Plopping into bed at the end of a frenetic day is like trying to shift your car into park while going 70 miles an hour on the freeway — great way to burn out the engine.
It turns out that if we want to sleep well, we have to set the stage earlier in the day. Dr Marks suggests taking time to meditate for 15 minutes during the day to “reboot” our brains
Another of Dr Marks suggestions: take care of email and texting in several batches throughout the day; the constant interruption from our devices in and of itself can be exhausting. Just because we CAN be available 24/7 doesn’t mean we should be.