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.

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I’m so excited for this! I’m coming back to Perth in February for another parent talk on 'Strengthening Children and Teens Against Anxiety'. Here’s the when and the where:

⏰ 6:30-8:30pm | 📆 Wed 22 Feb 2023
📍 Peter Moyes Anglican Community School, #mindarie

For tickets or more info google:

Parenting Connection WA Karen Young anxiety Mindarie Perth

💜 Thanks to @ngalaraisinghappiness for hosting this event.

#supportingwaparents #parentingwa
Let them know …

Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️

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