We know how it feels when we lack sleep. The next day, we feel foggy and slower than normal. That is because when we lose out on sleep, weâ€™re not giving the brain the opportunity to clean up after a long day of work.
Researchers found out that while we sleep, the brain flushes out dangerous proteins that it makes during the day. Jeff Iliff, a neuroscientist at Oregon Health and Science University, explained that while brains are unusually active during sleep, theyâ€™re actually going through a beneficial process that makes us smarter, perkier, and healthier during our waking hours.
Inside the skull, the brain sits in a clear fluid that acts as a buffer or cushion, but that’s not all it does. During sleep, it flows between the brain cells and acts as the waste removal system of the brain. While the rest of the body’s organs have fluid from the blood flowing through them to remove waste, the brain relies on this fluid.
Ilif continued to explain that when the brain goes to sleep, the brain cells themselves seem to shrink, opening up spaces in between them, allowing fluid to rush through and allowing waste to be cleared out.
We spendÂ roughly a third of our lives asleep but sleep is a remarkably productive time for our bodies. Sleep helps us form strong memories, allows our muscles, bones, andÂ organs to repair themselves, and helps strengthen theÂ immune system.But this discovery is the first to really show the mechanisms behind sleep’s rejuvenating effects on the brain, Iliff said.
“While our body is still and our mind is off walking in dreams somewhere, the elegant machinery of the brain is quietly hard at work cleaning and maintaining this unimaginably complex machine,” Iliff explains.
“In your house, if you stop cleaning your kitchen for a month, your home will become completely unlivable very quickly. But in the brain, the consequences of falling behind may be much greater than the embarrassment of dirty countertops. When it comes to cleaning the brain, it is the very health and function of the mind and the body that’s at stake,” says Ilif.
In a society where most people are awake because of overwhelming sensory stimulation, sleep has gradually become an option. We have become busier and busier, good time there and everywhere, forgetting to let our brains rest to rejuvenate.
Let us heed again what our elementary teachers instruct us to do; get enough rest and sleep. Science is showing how this natural process is so essential to our health and wellbeing, and to do otherwise will lead to our perdition.
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