Did you realize that we generally spend one third (1/3) of our lives sleeping? Do you sometimes think that sleeping is a waste of time… a chore… the enemy that keeps you from getting things in your life done? Neuroscience is just beginning to uncover the many advantages and the value of sleep. Here are a few:
Processing and Memory
First, Sleep is the time when the brain processes and consolidates memory from the day’s experiences… and then it stores the important memories. But, this process happens ONLY during sleep.
A recent study that was published in Nature Neuroscience and funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society analyzed the sleeping habits of rats. Specifically, researchers studied the brains of rats after exercising. They found that the rats’ memories of that experience were formed in the place cells of the hippocampus and then transferred to and stored in the grid cells in the entorhinal cortex. In short, their memories were replayed and transferred from one part of the brain to another during sleep.
For more information, go to the following two Science Daily articles:
- Brain Caught ‘Filing’ Memories During Rest
- Best to Sleep On It: Brain Activity Patterns During Sleep Consolidate Memory.
Restoration and Replenishment
Did you realize that although the brain only makes up only 2% of body mass, it uses up 25% of the body’s energy supply? With that much energy comes waste… and every organ of the body has a system for clearing the waste, usually through the body’s lymphatic system. But, the brain does NOT have lymphatic vessels.
Instead, the brain uses a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to clear out the wastes. It washes through the brain and dumps the waste into the blood. This process ONLY happens when we sleep. That is why we feel replenished and refreshed when we wake up.
Amyloid-beta is one of the substances that builds up in our brains, but in the normal sleeping process, its build up gets washed out through this sleeping and cleansing process. However, it is believed that amyloid-beta build up is one of the factors in developing the Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s patients have large amounts of amyloid-beta build up in their brains. Therefore, researchers are rethinking the relationship and importance between having sleep, cleansing of the amyloid-beta fluid and the Alzheimer’s disease.
The BOTTOM LINE is to respect and get the amount of sleep that is needed. Meanwhile, please check out this fascinating Ted Talk by neuroscientist Jeff Lliff about the important of sleep in our lives.