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A Surprising Activity of Sleep: Detoxifying the Brain

Detoxification has been added to the list of many activities carried out by the brain during sleep. Researchers in a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discovered that the brain has its own system for removing toxic waste. And this system is ten times more active during sleep than during waking hours.

The glymphatic system (the “g” for glia cells in the brain + lymphatic for waste removal system) is responsible for removing cellular waste and other toxins from the brain. While researchers used mice in this study, they are seeking approval to begin studies on humans. Glymphatic systems have already been identified in dogs, goats, and baboons.

Puzzled researchers had wondered how the brain removes its toxic wastes, such as cellular debris (from cells that have died), metabolic waste (from the process of respiration), and misshapen proteins and protein pieces (such as beta-amyloid, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease).  The lymphatic system, which detoxifies the rest of the body, has no access to the brain.

The NIH research team discovered that during sleep the, space between cells, controlled by glia cells, increases by 60% to open up channels and increase the flow of cerebrospinal fluid to carry away toxins. During the day this flow is merely a trickle. Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., head of the team, believes that the brain has two distinct modes – one for the conscious activities of the day and another for the housekeeping activities at night.  The brain at night has a different structure than it does during the day.

This latest discovery adds to the many reasons why it is imperative to pay attention to your sleep habits. According to the Centers for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is an epidemic health problem in the U.S. Most Americans do not get enough quality sleep. When you consider that the benefits of sleep range from improved memory, increased longevity, decreased inflammation, increased creativity, inspirational insights, maintenance of good weight, among others, it makes sense to evaluate whether or not you are getting the quality of sleep that will let you reap its rewards.

The amount of sleep people need is not necessarily agreed upon by experts. However, the suggestion to stop and evaluate whether or not you feel refreshed and rejuvenated when you awake is probably a good starting point. Not only the number of hours, but the quality of sleep is also important – if your sleep is fitful and restless you are probably not reaping all of its benefits. Lifestyle changes along with meditation and other relaxation practices can help.

We at AMD have also noticed that IonCleanse® system users often report that they get better sleep after a session, which makes us happy with this one more added detoxification bonus.

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