Research is revealing the vital role that sleep plays in our overall health.
Intuitively, we understand that sleep is a source of refreshment. A recent study conducted by Boston University, reported by Scientific American, sheds light on why this is. It was discovered that during the initial stages of sleeping, neuronal activity is suppressed and blood is pushed away from the head. This enables cerebrospinal fluid, otherwise known as CSF, to circulate and cleanse the brain of harmful metabolic waste.
Though the term "brainwashing" may conjure up images of mind control and dystopian futures, it could actually be a boon from Mother Nature.
In accordance with Scientific American, this research is the pioneering one to connect CSF flow directly to the memory-consolidating effect of slow-wave sleep. Laura Lewis, the co-author of the study, hopes in the future this bond will give us an understanding of illnesses like Alzheimer's, which is presumed to be due to a accumulation of toxic proteins in the brain.
Lewis said to Scientific American that Alzheimer's patients tend to have fewer slow waves, so there may additionally be fewer CSF waves. She noted that other psychiatric disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia, that result in sleep trouble due to "different electrical signatures," should be studied further.
Investigating CSF flow and slow brainwaves together might be useful in discovering the correlation between usual age-related declines. As people get older, their brains often produce less slow waves, which can have an effect on the brain's blood supply and thus decrease the pulsing of CSF during sleep, causing a buildup of toxic proteins and a decrease in memory capabilities. This is why Lewis and his team also hope to do more research on senior citizens; formerly only healthy adults were involved.
One conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that the importance of a good night's rest should never be underestimated. It is like a tidying up process for our mind, eliminating anything that is not beneficial to our wellbeing. Consequently, it is essential to make sleep a priority.