Why it is not enough to sleep off during the weekend.
The whole week we look forward to the weekend so that we could stay in bed a little bit longer, recover and regain strength. But we do not realize that even three nights of good sleep are not able to offset the effects of regular lack of sleep. As a result, the brain loses the ability to cleanse itself of toxic substances; that is why we do not feel refreshed even if you sleep till noon.
One of the most important scientific discoveries is that sleep, in essence, works like a brigade, to purify the brain from toxic proteins that accumulate between brain cells throughout the day. Maiken Nedergaard, a co-founder of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, University of Rochester, studied the mechanism underlying the cleansing function of the brain. “It’s like a dishwasher, – she says. — We don’t eat with dirty dishes, so why do we agree to live without using all the power and full potential of our brain?”
The research that Nedergaard conducted on mice showed that the lymphatic system (the “sewer system” of the brain) is more active during sleep and plays a critical role in maintaining the brain in good condition. When the mice were asleep, their brain cells shrank, freeing up more space for the spinal fluid, which is freely flowing through the brain, literally washing out the toxic deposits, the formation of which is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Preliminary studies have shown that a similar process may occur in the brain of people — a fact that could be an important breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of dementia. The leaching of unwanted chemicals and toxins occurs during sleep only, because when we are awake, the brain is too busy running the other functions of the body. As Nedergaard says, “the brain has a limited amount of energy and it must choose between two opposing functional states: awake (to stay awake) or sleep (and to do cleaning). It’s like taking the guests: you can either entertain them or clean the house, but doing both simultaneously is impossible.”
If the brain does not have enough time to wash all the unnecessary toxins and chemicals, it might have very serious consequences. According to Claire Sexton of Oxford Center for Functional MRI of the Brain, regular lack of sleep leads to a decrease in the brain size. Claire reported: “We found out that poor sleep quality increases the likelihood of reducing the volume of the brain in three to five years. At the moment, the question is whether lack of sleep causes changes in the structure of the brain, or it is the consequence, or those are two interacting processes.”
One thing is clear: the health of the brain depends on the quality and quantity of sleep. Regular lack of sleep gradually leads to the irreplaceable loss of brain cells; it is another argument in favor of the fact that staying in bed on the weekend longer cannot compensate lack of sleep on weekdays. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Peking University conducted a joint study where they found out that mice, suffering from sleep deprivation, lost 25% of the brain cells responsible for the mental activity, concentration and cognitive function. “In general, we always assumed that full recovery of cognitive activity is possible after short or long-term sleep deprivation, – said Sigrid Veasey, one of the study’s authors. — However, several studies on humans indicate that even after three nights of proper sleep some of the functions of cognitive activities are not normalized. This raises the question of which consequences of lack of sleep are irreversible”. She also added that until recently, “no one thought that lack of sleep can really influence the performance of the brain.”
Excerpts from the book “The Sleep Revolution” by Arianna Huffington”