The Restorative Powers of Sleep

soundsleep3We know that people who don’t get enough shut-eye have trouble learning and making decisions, and are slower to react. But despite decades of research, scientists have not been able to agree on the basic purpose of sleep, with explanations ranging from processing memory to saving energy to regulating the body.

But now, the long held assumption that sleep serves a vital function has gained new support with a recent study by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center suggesting that when we close our eyes, our brains go on a cleaning spree.

The research team had previously found a plumbing network in mouse brains that flushes out cellular waste. For the new study, the scientists injected the brains of mice with beta-amyloid, a substance that builds up in Alzheimer’s disease, and followed its movement. They determined that the potentially neurotoxic substance was removed faster from the brains of sleeping mice than awake mice.

The team also noticed that brain cells tend to shrink during sleep, which widens the space between the cells. This allows waste to pass through that space more easily.

Scientists say there is reason to think the same “housekeeping” process happens in humans. Among other things, the results may provide new clues to slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other mind disorders.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

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