Why Sleep Actually Cleans Your Brain

Posted by Nicola Elliott

Why Sleep Actually Cleans Your Brain

We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep. But did you know that it physically cleans your brain as well?

As we know, we need to take care of our minds just as much as our bodies (think sleep hygiene for your mind) and apparently, using our brains to think all day builds up toxins.

A study, which originally appeared in the US Science Journal, shows that while we’re asleep our brains are actually engaged in a tonne of housework - cleaning up our brains! (Think a Hoover for your mind).

As we sleep our brain cells shrink, which create gaps between the neurons (the hard-working bits of our brains that transmit information to the rest of our body). This allows fluid to wash away the build up of all those toxins. Literally cleaning away those not-so-good thoughts, then.

What’s more, the team of researchers behind the study also suggested that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders like Alzheimer’s. Blimey. While the ‘sweep while you sleep’ has been shown to play a big role in essential brain functions like memories and learning, a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York believes it may be one of the primary reasons for sleep. "The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states - awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up," researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard told the BBC.

"You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time." AKA Burning the candle at both ends. You know that satisfied, refreshed feeling when you head into your newly hoovered living room or a sparkling clean kitchen?

So basically that’s how you can feel when you wake up after a good night’s rest. Housework for the head – only someone else is doing it for you. Genius. Frustrated you can’t fall asleep? Try this small step… Try reframing it: “HOW lovely to be lying down and having a rest, with nothing else to do.” Releasing the tension can help your body drift off sooner.

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