The Remarkable New Discovery About What Your Brain Does While You Sleep

The Remarkable Discovery About What Your Brain Does While You Sleep

We know the brain does beautiful things while we are sleeping. Sleep is important for consolidating learning, storing memories, finding creative solutions to problems and processing emotional issues. Recently, scientists have added to its list of heroics and the findings and what they have discovered is fascinating.

Research has found that sleep has a(nother) remarkable function. Sleep literally cleanses your mind by opening hidden caves in the brain and clearing out toxins.

Researchers have demonstrated that during sleep, the space between brain cells expands, allowing for the flushing of toxins that build up in the central nervous system during the hours we are awake.

‘Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,’ Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

The study, published in Science, shows that during sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system seems to open, allowing fluid to flow rapidly through the brain and wash away toxins that have accumulated between the cells.

‘It’s as if Dr Nedergaard and her colleagues have uncovered a network of hidden caves and these exciting results highlight the potential importance of the network in normal brain function,’ Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS.

Researchers made the discovery by injecting dye into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of mice. The CSF is a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. (Researchers used mice in the study because of their striking genetic and biological similarity to humans.)

When the mice were unconscious, either asleep or anaesthetised, the dye flowed rapidly but when the same mice were awake, the dye barely flowed at all.

From this, the researchers tested the theory that the space between brain cells increased depending on whether the mice were conscious or unconscious. To do this, they inserted electrodes into the brain to directly measure the space between cells.

They found that when the mice were asleep or anaesthetised, the cellular structure of their brains changed dramatically, with the space inside their brains increasing by 60%.

When we are awake, the CSF mostly covers the surface of the brain. When we sleep, the CSF is able to move deep inside. The effect is striking – potential neurotoxins, like β-amyloid, which have been associated with Alzheimer’s, are cleared twice as fast while we are sleeping as while we are awake.

Previous research has suggested that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders collect in the space between brain cells. Nedergaard and her colleagues tested whether the glymphatic system controls this, by injecting the mice with a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease and measuring the length of time it lasted in their brains when they were asleep or awake. The protein disappeared faster in mice brains when the mice were asleep. This finding suggests the critical role of sleep in clearing toxic molecules from the brain.

Further research is needed to see if the results hold true in humans, but they may have broad implications for our understanding and treatment of neurological disorders.

This study offers preliminary explanations for the observations that many neurological disorders like strokes and dementia are associated with poor sleep patterns. Specifically, lack of sleep may impede the brain from cleaning out toxins, lead to a build-up and ultimately, long-term damage.

As put so eloquently by the researchers, ‘We need sleep. It cleans up the brain.’

[irp posts=”2334″ name=”I Just Want To Go To Sleep! How to Sleep Better (According to Science)”]

2 Comments

Steve Cripe RN

This article only serves to highlight why it is so vital that physicians take their patient’s insomnia seriously, and treat it aggressively. Too many doctors are afraid to treat insomnia with medications.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
.
.
#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
.
.
#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This