While scientists have known that quality sleep is critical for specific functions in the brain that are directly linked to decision-making, memory, creativity and emotions, recent findings provide more evidence as to how the process of cleaning our brains may work and why poor sleep habits could hurt your future.
Quartz reports that Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translation Neuromedicin at the University of Rochester, Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry, and his research team found that the brain doesn’t slowly clean our brains as we snooze, instead neurotoxins are “forcefully pushed through the brain at a much faster and higher pace.”
As we sleep, our brain finally gets a 6-8 hour period to allow cerebrospinal fluid to flush out dangerous neurotoxins in heavy amounts through our spinal column. Keeping this cleaning system properly flowing is important as a build-up of those toxins can lead to neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
However, sleep duration isn’t the only aspect to consider for optimal brain health. Other research has revealed that poor sleep quality and sleep disruptions specifically lead to more clumps of the neurotoxin called beta-amyloid in the cerebral cortex area of the brain, which is considered to be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, beta-amyloid can also prevent a good night’s sleep and create a vicious cycle of insomnia.
Rotating shift employees, and night shift workers especially should consider their brain health as these shifts have been identified by numerous studies to result in poor sleep and overall health. Last year, a published study revealed that working that night shift for at least 10 years is associated with more than 6 years of age-related cognitive decline.
As science tells us, there is no way around the consequences of poor sleeping habits. While the immediate effects of sleep loss can bring us down, its long-term effects are life-changing. Your brain needs you to tuck in for 7-9 hours of restorative sleep every night without disruption to prepare you for the next day.