Brain Bulletin #89 - Are the Janitors in Your Brain Getting a Chance to do Their Job?

in Brain Bulletin

I take my brain health seriously. How about you?

The New England Journal of Medicine says that brain-condition related deaths are sky-rocketing. Between 1979 and 2010, men are up 66%, and women 92%. 

Studies find that 54% of these could have been avoided. I think in the future this number will be higher. Prevention is key.

What if you could hire a crew of janitors to keep your brain in good condition? You already do have a crew, but they may not be getting a chance to do their job.

The answer: sleep.

The University of Rochester Medical Center for Translational Neuromedicine released a study showing slumber gives your brain a chance to clear out potentially harmful waste that build up while you're awake. This waste includes amyloid beta - a driver of Alzheimer's.  

Essentially, while you sleep your brain "takes out the trash".

 If we cut back on sleep the janitors may not have the time......

 This process is called the glymphatic system. It is ten times more active when you are sleeping than when you are awake.

Of note:

- Lack of sleep seems to play a role in dementia, and other brain disorders.

- Cellular waste is flushed out of your brain cells and into your circulatory system, and then to the liver.

- Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped through your brain tissue to remove the waste. When you sleep, your brain cells shrink 60%. This allows the fluid to move faster, and more freely.

- The pumping of this fluid takes a lot of energy. Energy that doesn't seem to be available when you are awake, and engaging actively with your environment.

The lead author of the study Dr. Maiken Nedergaard puts it this way, "You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain your guests, or you can clean the house. But, you can't really do both at the same time."

The researcher point out that nearly all degenerative brain diseases are linked to the accumulation of cellular waste products.

Most studies indicate that if you add up all your minutes of sleep for the year and divide by 365, the number should be between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. 

Not everyone has an easy relationship with sleep. Here's help:

      Nine Bad Habits that Can Steal Your Sleep

      Seven Foods that Help You Get a Better Sleep

On a lighter note, Ernest Hemingway once said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?”

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It has been a crazy-busy fall. 53 presentations. Highlights include: Futuraskolan in Sweden, The French American School in San Francisco, 6 presentations in Japan, and The Education Neuroscience Conference in Indianapolis, and 12 presentations in 4 days in The Northwest Territories. 

I'm looking forward to some downtime over Christmas, but first 4 presentations in Saskatchewan next week. Will it be cold?

Also, this spring I will on a speaking tour in Australia - Sydney, Newcastle, and Melbourne. Please let me know if you would like me to speak to your organization. 

......remember, you are a genius.

Terry Small, "the Brain Guy", Independent Scholar & Learning Skills Specialist.

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