The obvious answer is to rest our bodies. But do you also know how sleep affects your brain? There are few things more satisfying than a good night’s sleep. And now we know, thanks to scientific advancements, that there is a deep connection between sleep and brain health.
Sleep rests and restores the body and the brain. Certain regions of the brain that are relatively dormant during waking hours are very active during sleep. This pattern of brain activity gives us valuable insight into the restorative effects sleep has on brain health and cognition. One emerging field in sleep theory and its relation to cognitive deterioration is called Waste Management.
During your waking hours, the brain naturally collects toxic compounds that are often by-products of essential processes. The more hours you spend awake, the more toxic compounds accumulate in your brain. These toxins slow cognition and can eventually produce plaques that are directly associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and other conditions.
The brain actively maintains itself through sleep with the help of cells called microglia. These cells clean out waste and debris that naturally accumulate to maintain the brain’s processing power — the waste management effect. These microglial cells are most active during sleep and least active – even sluggish – while awake.
Sleep, and the brain’s waste management system, plays an essential role in keeping our brains healthy. The waste management processes are most active during the phase of sleep known as slow wave sleep. This deep sleep cycle is a stage where brainwaves are the slowest and occurs shortly after falling asleep as the body transitions from the light sleep phase. So, practicing healthy sleeping habits is an investment in our brain power.
Can we improve our sleep? Yes. Practicing certain habits like going to bed at a consistent time, exercising daily, and even meditation all promote healthy sleep hygiene. Afterall, ahealthy sleep routine means a healthy brain.
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