It is not news that sleep is important to your health. However, recent research has uncovered more benefits to getting a full night's rest. In addition to helping improve memory and concentration, sleep may even remove harmful toxins from the brain.1
Investigators from the University of Rochester and New York University used in vivo two-photon imaging to collect data regarding the difference in arousal states of a mouse. It was found that metabolic waste products were removed from the brain during sleep. The researchers believe that this is why rest results in so many beneficial brain functions.2
"These findings have significant implications for treating 'dirty brain' disease like Alzheimer's," Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, one of the authors on the study, told LiveScience. "Understanding precisely how and when brain activates the glymphatic system and clears waste is a critical first step in efforts to potentially modulate this system and make it work more efficiently."
Improving sleep habits
Sleeping can have all of the wonderful benefits in the world, but none of that matters if you aren't getting enough of it. That being said, there are plenty of things that you can do to improve your sleeping habits. A few tips for falling and staying asleep include:
- Create a routine before bed each evening that helps to prep your body for rest. This can include things like a relaxing shower, reading or other stress-free activities.
- Keep a food journal to see if there are any items that keep you up at night. What you drink can also play a role. Of course, caffeine can keep you up, but alcohol may also result in a restless night.3
- Exercise is another great way to ensure that you are sleeping well. However, it's best to workout earlier in the day – exercising at the end of the day can make it hard to settle down and get some rest.
- Don't partake in activities such as watching television, reading or playing computer games in your bed. In fact, you should try to avoid any type of screen at least 60 minutes before you would like to go to bed.
- Get comfortable while in bed by purchasing soft sheets, fluffy pillows and comfortable blankets. Those with back pain might want to try a pillow between their legs, and if you wake with neck ache then it's time to get some new support.4
- Animal lovers may be sad to hear that it can be best to kick your best friend out of the sack. Not only will they keep you up at night with their movement, but cats and dogs may also bring allergens into your sleeping corridors.
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1 LiveScience, "A night's sleep cleans brain of harmful toxins" October 18, 2013
2 Science magazine, "Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain" October 18, 2013
3 Mayo Clinic "Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep" July 7, 2011
4 WebMD, "Insomnia slideshow: 20 tips for better sleep" August 16, 2012