It turns out your brain cleans itself while you sleep!
Think about when you exercise. You start off feeling fresh and full of energy and by the end you feel tired and sluggish. What happens is that by products of exercise (toxins) build up in your cells. Luckily enough a network called the lymphatic system is designed to take all these toxins and deal with them. This system extends throughout your whole body – except for the head… So how does the brain rid itself of toxins?
Scientists have recently discovered a system that drains waste from the brain. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal column. The fluid extends down a series of channels that surround blood vessels and circulates throughout the brain. At the moment only rats have been studied, but scientists believe that due to the bigger size and complexity in the human brain this system is almost certainly in place.
The most important part of this fluid circulation is that it only occurs during sleep. While you are awake the brain has far too much to focus on. Only when your body is at rest the brain can initiate this necessary daily cleaning.
The problem is most people don’t give their brain enough cleaning time each night. A shortened sleep can cause a build up of these toxins and affect physical and cognitive function into the next day. A series of shortened sleep can cause some severe shortcomings in your brain’s function. Imagine if you didn’t clean your room properly and let the rubbish build up over a few weeks. This is happening in the most precious structure to you.
The moral of the story sleep enough to feel well rested and full of energy the next day; and give your brain the wall to wall professional clean it deserves.
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Reference: Xie et al “Sleep initiated fluid flux drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain.” Science, October 18, 2013. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224