. . . new study shows how your brain flushes itself of toxic waste while sleeping
Wish you had an extra hour or two of sleep every night?
If so, you’re not alone. Recent statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show 50-70 million US adults don’t get an adequate amount of good quality sleep. Yet with increasing sleep deprivation, Americans pay a heavy price.
Those surveyed reported significant problems with memory and concentration. So much so, that it adversely affects their relationships, commuting for work or pleasure, handling of finances, and job performance. In fact, lack of sleep is increasingly being blamed for car crashes, workplace accidents, marital problems, as well as a variety of health issues including depression, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, increased mortality, skin aging, and more.
Just how serious is it?
We’ve already warned about the negative impact of insomnia on health and safety. And even though Americans admit to being sleep deprived, they remain unwilling to do anything about it. It’s become so bad, that earlier this year the US CDC declared insufficient sleep a public health disaster.
In this sleep statistics infographic by Ellie Koning, research indicates you’ll die within two weeks without eating. Yet sleep deprivation will kill you in about 10 days!
Clearly, getting enough good sleep is a serious concern…and here’s why.
Our brain has two basic functioning states. Awake and sleep. When awake, our brain works hard processing our surroundings. But it creates numerous toxins in the process. So, it must work hard to remove the accumulated buildup of this toxic waste.
More sleep…less Alzheimer’s
In fact, previous studies seemed to suggest that certain toxic molecules—like beta-amyloid proteins—linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells. So, scientists wanted to see if the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in this space—called the glymphatic system—could be the brain’s unique method for flushing out toxic waste. And, if it occurs mostly during sleep.
In a new animal study—published in the journal Science—University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) researchers injected dye into the CSF of awake, anesthetized, and sleeping mice. They watched for ease of flow through the brain’s glymphatic system while monitoring electrical activity.
Incredibly, the dye flowed quickly through the brains of unconscious mice, yet barely flowed when the same mice were awake.
“We were surprised by how little flow there was into the brain when the mice were awake,” said Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, lead author of the study. “It suggested that the space between brain cells changed greatly between conscious and unconscious states.”
(Watch Dr. Nedergaard explain her groundbreaking brain detox research here.)
Indeed, when measured, the space between their brain cells increased by 60 percent when the mice were asleep or anesthetized. This shows that the brain purposefully changes its structure during sleep, allowing waste to be removed more effectively.
You already know a good night’s rest allows the body to repair its cells and refresh its metabolic systems. Now, this new study proves for the first time another very basic but critical function of sleep…removal of toxic waste product created in the active brain.
“We need sleep,” says Dr. Nedergaard. “It cleans up the brain.”
Got any tried and true—or even strange—ways to prevent sleep deprivation? Please share them with us in the comments below.