A breakthrough study published in the journal Science highlights how our body cleanses itself of toxins during sleep. This information may help researchers assess new opportunities for treating and preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also signifies how important deep, restful sleep is to our overall health.
The science behind sleep
During sleep, our brain transitions through several different phases, including what is known as “rapid eye movement” or REM sleep. REM sleep is associated with the time when we typically dream. The recent study focused on a specific phase of slow-wave sleep, and it was discovered that as neurons in the brain turn off during this phase of sleep, it allows for substantial waves of cerebrospinal fluid to begin circulating. This fluid essentially washes away accumulated toxins. The findings support what many in the medical community have long known; that optimal brain function and overall health is intimately connected to the quality of our sleep.
Understanding brain waste and aging
The brain produces a lot of waste during the day, simply due to its constant level of activity. That explains why it is uniquely wired to cleanse itself of metabolic waste while we sleep. Unfortunately, as we age, our brains tend to experience less and less slow-wave sleep, the type that allows for the removal of toxins. Individuals with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea may also experience disruptions in waste cleansing, putting them at higher risk of a variety of symptoms, including headaches, drowsiness, weight gain and low sex drive. In fact, poor sleep quality, when left untreated, is associated with higher risks of various chronic conditions, from dementia and heart disease to depression.
Protect your sleep to preserve your health
Since quality sleep plays such an important role in maintaining our overall health, especially as we age, addressing chronic sleep issues is essential. Interrupted sleep can keep your body from the needed nightly toxin flush that helps keep your mind sharp and vital and your body free from illness. If you suspect you may be struggling from an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, or if you’d like to learn more about the relationship between quality sleep and overall health, contact Chesapeake Sleep Center for a consultation.