The basics of taking care of yourself — drinking plenty of water, eating fresh and healthy foods on the periphery of the grocery store (and not the aisles), staying active, and making time for sleep — will always win out over the most recent miracle-working snake oil on the market.
A study in the journal Science corroborates the common-sense approach when it comes to sleep. Using laboratory mice, researchers from the University of Rochester and New York University found that the brain evacuated cellular waste during sleep by pumping cerebral spinal fluid through tissue.
The waste, which includes amyloid beta, a protein that in excess is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, is sent away from the brain and into the circulatory system, where it makes its way to the liver.
The study marks the first scientific finding that demonstrates the existence of a mechanical necessity associated with sleep to ensure brain function. The reason the waste-clearing activity must occur during sleep is simple: There’s less going on in your head when you’re at rest and unconscious. The pathways that brain fluids travel during the day, like nighttime expressways, are uncluttered from traffic.
During sleep, the study shows, brain cells shrink by approximately two-thirds. That constriction affords more rapid movement of cerebrospinal fluid through the interstitial spaces, traveling through dedicated channels (not mixing with blood in the brain) to perform its janitorial routine.
In the laboratory mice, the researchers found that sleeping expedited the removal of brain toxins twice as fast as when the mice were awake. When mice — and people, for that matter — wake from sleep, the cerebrospinal fluid pathways constrict as brain cells hydrate and squeeze them closer together. That sends the fluid to the outer periphery of the brain, where it remains until another round of sleep opens the way for another deep-cleaning cycle.
Access the study’s landing page here, where you can read an abstract, an editor’s summary and other articles analyzing the new findings.
Then get some rest.