Detox Your Brain Tonight
Ever heard of a brain detox? Toxins can build up in the brain at an alarming rate. Brain cells have a very taxing function. So much so, in fact, that it appears that they are not able to do their work and clear out the toxic by-products of their metabolism at the same time. This is different than most other cells in our bodies. Our heart cells, for example, need to keep operating without a break every second for our entire lives. What the very latest research seems to show about brain functioning is that brain cells have such a tough job of that they are constantly running in overdrive mode just by being conscious. The only way to really clear out the toxins is for the brain to power down into sleep mode…or detox mode.
While we’re awake, our brain cells accumulate various metabolic by-products such as the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine, which diminishes our mental focus. New research shows that during sleep, some brain cells shrink, opening up the interstitial space between cells by about 60 percent so that cerebrospinal fluid can wash away neurotoxins and other by-products of brain cell function that accumulate while we are awake.
An entire system of plumbing for this has only recently been discovered, in part because it nearly disappears while we are awake. This is the primary way that the brain detoxes, and it works ten times better while we sleep than it does when we’re awake. In addition to adenosine and other metabolites, this system has been shown to clear out beta-amyloid, a neurotoxin associated with Alzheimer’s disease. One understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s is that it they are accompanied by an accumulation of beta-amyloid into plaques around brain cells, so it is quite possible that “rinsing away” the neurotoxins through more or better sleep could play a beneficial role.
So, one vital function of sleep is to help the brain detox. It detoxifies like an oil change for your car, and it has similar consequences for going too long between treatments.
What do you do to get a good night’s sleep?
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
How much sleep we actually need has been the topic of much debate. So, are you getting enough sleep? Sleeping less than eight hours per night appears to trigger some powerful reactions in our bodies. Recent studies have found that getting just six hours of sleep per night for two weeks makes a person as impaired as someone who has gone for 24 hours without sleep!
Getting six hours of sleep is clearly not enough. But what about seven? Researchers have looked at that, too. And while they find less impairment than in those who get six hours of sleep, even that extra hour isn’t enough sleep to let someone operate at optimum performance. According to one study, each day they get just seven hours of sleep per night, people become less and less able to perform a standard test of alertness and mental focus.
According to recent studies by the National Sleep Foundation, Americans average 6.9 hours of sleep per night on weeknights. One study in Michigan found that of their random sampling, people got an average of 6.7 hours per night during the workweek and 7.4 hours per night on weekends. This would mean that the people surveyed really never got enough sleep. They were chronically sleep deprived on average. Which means that for every person in the study who was getting the proper eight hours, someone else was severely deprived. However, after two weeks of sleep deprivation, the subjects of these studies report only being “slightly sleepy,” regardless of the fact that their performance scores had dropped to their lowest levels during the study. In other words, we are very poor judges of just how much our sleep deprivation is affecting our function.
Our current level of sleep deprivation is a relatively new phenomenon for humans. It’s a product of modern life that has rapidly accelerated over just the last few years as new technology has become commonplace. Putting effort into getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep will work wonders for your health. Sleep tight!
The #1 Way To Get Better Sleep Tonight
To get better sleep, we need to promote melatonin production. Daylight signals our bodies that it is time to stay awake. Even small amounts will do this, so it’s important to minimize these. It takes at least an hour of dim light for melatonin levels to begin to rise. Dimming your lights is very helpful since not only does it lower the level of the light in a room, but with incandescent bulbs, dimming also shifts the light toward the orange end of the spectrum. If you want to read and still be able to sleep, a reading light with a small incandescent bulb may still be a good solution. The thing you absolutely want to avoid is placing the backlit screen of a tablet or similar computer right up to your face where all that light completely halts melatonin production.
Once you go to sleep, your bedroom should be as dark as possible. Even the light from a small clock can interfere with melatonin production and reduce the quality of your sleep. If you can’t completely darken your room, an eye mask to block all light can be extremely beneficial at increasing your quality of sleep.
Starting at least an hour before bed, but even earlier, if possible, lower the lights in your house. Turn off lights in rooms where you don’t need them or put them on dimmer. Light chores like cleaning up the dishes are fine. Reading under a low light is excellent. This hour before bed should be a mini digital-detox. Avoid bright lights, TV and computer screens close to your face.
On my computer, I use a free program called F.Lux that matches the color spectrum of the screen to the outside natural light shades and Apple smartphones and tablets now have a brightness setting called “Night Shift” that eliminates much of the blue spectrum, both of which make a tremendous difference for me on those nights I have to work late and then try to get right to sleep.
What do you do to get a better night’s sleep?