Ever notice that the morning after you didn’t get a good night’s sleep that you not only feel tired but you can’t think clearly? You go around in a fog most of the day and often can barely speak clearly. Well, now, researchers know the reason why. It’s also the reason why you may not live as long or you may develop Alzheimer’s, or some other brain impairment, disease. Here are the details…
Study Reveals Your Brain Is…Dirty!
A new study out of the University of Rochester believes it has found the reason why you perform so poorly on lack of sleep and why your life also depends on it. Previously, it was believed that if you didn’t sleep much, you were just going around tired all the time. Well, turns out, it’s a little more complicated. The truth is, you’re not just tired – your brain is dirty.
These researchers arrived at their conclusions by studying lab animals that share the same mammalian brain characteristics as humans. While mammals are asleep, their brain performs a rather remarkable function – it cleans itself. That’s right. Seems during sleep, your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which your brain floats in, becomes particularly active.
During sleep, your brain cells shrink, and the CSF circulates more actively around your brain, bathing it from all directions, getting into cracks and crevices. The submersion actually cleans your brain of waste products and amyloid proteins that, if left in place, build up and cause “brain fog” and may lead to Alzheimer’s disease. This dirty fluid is then transported in your blood to your liver which then removes the waste. It’s then excreted through your urine.
When you start waking up, the fluid slows its circulation, and recedes to its “waking” level. If you’ve slept well, and long enough, you should feel clear-headed, of good mood, and ready to hit your day.
But, if you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, or didn’t sleep long enough, that grogginess, impaired memory, speech, is a result of inadequate cleaning of these substances. Other research had previously linked diseases of the brain, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, to sleep disorders. Researchers now believe that the brain’s cleaning mechanism is key to helping prevent disease.
In addition, sleep itself performs other functions like helping the body repair itself. With inadequate sleep, your body’s repair function also is impaired. As a result, your body will start to break down and be at much higher risk for developing diseases and death. Like all mammals, humans can’t live without sleep. It has been found in research studies that sleep deprivation in mammals results in early death. The same can hold true for humans.
Older People Have Trouble Sleeping and Increased Risk
As you get older, your stores of melatonin – your body’s natural sleep inducer made in your pineal gland – decrease. Without adequate melatonin, you have a hard time getting, and staying asleep. In addition, too much caffeine, chocolate, spicy foods, or strenuous exercise, 2-3 hours before sleep, can prevent you from getting, or staying asleep. Chronic stress can also impair sleep – your body secretes too much adrenaline which acts as a stimulant.
Researchers have determined that lack of sleep is a big factor in the development of cognitive disorders and disease. Obviously, getting more and better sleep is one of the best things you can do to preserve not only your brain function but your health in general. Taking a little melatonin about 15-20 minutes before you want to go to sleep can help you sleep better and allow your brain to clean itself, and your body to repair itself, adequately. But don’t take too much. According to Walter Pierpaoli, MD, a melatonin researcher, in his book The Melatonin Miracle, you should only take what you need to get to sleep. Here’s how much melatonin you should take for your age, each night, to help you sleep.
40-44: 0.5 to 1 mg
45-54: 1 to 2 mg
55-64: 2 to 2.5
65-74: 2.5 to 5 mg
75 plus: 3.5 to 5 mg
You’ve always known it – getting enough sleep makes you feel better, happier, able to
think more clearly and function normally. Now, you know why. In addition, a little bit of “catch up” sleep can also help your brain as well as your overall health. But, not a lot of catch up sleep. Researchers at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences say that if you consistently lose 20 hours of sleep during the week, you’re not going to be able to recoup that. So, do everything you can to ensure you get between 6-8 hours of sleep every night.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.