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Why Your Brain Needs Sleep

Author: Frank R. Laurri, MD We all know that sleep  deprivation is a terrible thing to experience but how important is a good night’s sleep to our health and why exactly do all living things require sleep? In 2012 a discovery was  made in how an active organ like the brain cleanses itself of the toxins created by its own activity-similar to the drainage of waste products from muscle tissue after use. This system is called the “Glymphatic System”. It is a system of drainage vessels from the brain that releases toxic waste products of metabolism, including abnormal proteins called beta amyloid, a protein implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Just like muscles that produce waste products during exercise, the brain also produces waste chemicals from use. What organ is as active as our brain as it controls every function of the body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Interestingly, this system shuts off while we are awake and turns back on during sleep so that during sleep our brains become cleansed of these harmful toxic waste products that are possibly the cause of various degenerative brain diseases that lead to memory loss as well as other neurologic problems. The risk of Alzheimer’s Disease increases with aging and it just so happens that with ageing comes a change in sleep patterns, We tend to sleep less during the night and also we sleep more lightly, not achieving the deep sleep required for proper functioning of the glymphatic system. There are several things that have been theorized to help our sleep patterns and therefore help improve our brain health-sleeping on our side rather than on our back improves glymphatic function, exercise is beneficial, Omega 3, found in fish has also been shown to have a positive effect on this brain cleansing system also. Maybe the future of the aging brain isn’t as bleak as we all tend to fear if we can develop therapies to improve brain cleansing through the improvement of glymphatic system function. In the meantime, get a good night sleep!


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