Why Do We Sleep?

We have always known that attaining quality sleep is an important aspect of our lives and is critical to being able to properly function the next day. However, the science behind why we sleep is not as clearly understood. Researchers believe they may have found new information behind why we sleep. The medical findings further indicate why sleep is so crucial for our existence.

The University of Rochester Medical Center, led by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard and her colleagues, discovered that sleep is needed to remove toxic plaque in the brain. Through their experimentation with mice, the team unexpectedly discovered that brain cells shrank during sleep. This shrinkage allowed for the cerebral spinal fluid to flow more rapidly through the brain which removed traces of plaque.

Dr. Nedegaard believes that this “cleaning” process requires a great deal of energy which is too difficult to complete during waking hours. The discovery suggests that the space between the brain cells changed significantly between conscious and unconscious states. They also found that the space inside the brain increased by 60% when the mice were asleep or anesthetized.

These findings indicate that sleep is needed to clean and restore the brain. Activities such as staying up all night could prevent the brain from removing the built up toxins. The recent information further helps us understand why sleep deprivation can have such strong and immediate consequences.

Restorative, restful sleep may also help to prevent brain disorders.  Previous studies suggest that the toxic molecules involved in brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease accumulate in the space between brain cells. Through Dr. Nedegaard’s recent study, researchers tested this concept and found that when the mice where asleep the toxic molecules were cleared!

As more scientific data becomes available, new insights will be gained on how sleep can play a huge role in health, life expectancy and the quality of life. The recent research published by Dr. Nedegaard and her colleagues could be the start of many more studies to come on why sleep is so critical.

If you or a loved one suffer from poor quality of sleep, daytime fatigue or snoring issues, please contact our office for additional information. Call us today at (303) 399-0400 or visit our website and take our short quiz at http://www.cherry-creekdentist.com/dental-procedures/sleep-apnea.html