By Shannon Keirnan
What's better than a great night's sleep?
Not much, if you're asking me. I'll take a good nap or a decent night of rest over just about anything. If I can get some good-quality shut-eye I'm a happier, healthier, glowy-er person overall, and that's important to me.
The true purpose of sleep, while hotly debated, has remained one of the many mysteries of the universe in the scientific community. However, a new study is also showing that there may be more important benefits to getting your much-needed z's than just improved mood and energy.
A study performed on mice is showing that sleep is needed to actually cleanse harmful toxins from the brain.
"Sleep puts the brain in another state where we clean out all the byproducts of activity during the day," says study author Maiken Nedergaard (read more on Nedergaard's findings here).
These "byproducts" include beta-amyloid protein, which can form a plaque in the brain that may be linked to Alzheimer's.
The study used florescent ink on awake and sleeping mice to monitor brain activities. The dye showed that, while sleeping, the mice's glymphatic system (a recently discovered network in the brain) "works by circulating cerebrospinal fluid throughout the brain tissue and flushing any waste into the bloodstream, which then carries it to the liver for detoxification."
Cells in the brain even shrink, allowing more open space to be flushed out.
This new discovery may help unlock many of the mysteries of sleep and why it is so important to our bodies - and why we feel so unfocused (and cranky) without adequate amounts, become ill more easily... and possibly why we develop serious issues like Alzheimer's.
Rats entirely deprived of sleep died "within weeks" in the study.
So, the next time you're counting on coffee to get you through the day, remember how vital sleep is to your overall health, happiness -and probably the happiness of those around you -and allot yourself time to get the rest you need!
Good night... and sleep well this weekend.
Can't sleep? Try out the tips below!
- Restrict use of electronics an hour before bed time. Research shows that the light from phones, televisions, computers, and other equipment confuses the body's concept of time and restricts the release of melatonin. Dimming lights an hour before sleep may also help prepare the body for rest.
-Try a hot bath.
-Use calming essential oils like lavender, Roman chamomile, or frankincense in your environment near bed time.
-Before sleep, jot down your thoughts in a journal to keep them from bothering you while you're trying to relax. Try adding a list of things you are grateful for, to help keep worries and depression at bay.
-Exercise during the day will help tire your body for the night. Don't exercise within three hours of bed time, however, as the extra endorphins will keep you up!
-Stop caffeine intake five hours before your scheduled bed time. Yes, really.
-Mediate and/or stretch to relax the body and mind.
-Drink herbal teas designed to aid in sleep, like Nuwati Herbals' Cloud Walking Tea. Avoid black and green teas.
-Experiment with supplements like valerian root or melatonin to find what works for you.
Got a great tip for great sleep? Leave it in the comments below!