Not all sleep is equal when it comes to cleaning the brain

New research shows how the depth of sleep can impact our brain’s ability to efficiently wash away waste and toxic proteins. Because sleep often becomes increasingly lighter and more disrupted as we become older, the study reinforces and potentially explains the links between aging, sleep deprivation, and heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

“Sleep is critical to the function of the brain’s waste removal system and this study shows that the deeper the sleep the better,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “These findings also add to the increasingly clear evidence that quality of sleep or sleep deprivation can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

The study, which appears in the journal Science Advances, indicates that the slow and steady brain and cardiopulmonary activity associated with deep non-REM sleep are optimal for the function of the glymphatic system, the brain’s unique process of removing waste. The findings may also explain why some forms of anesthesia can lead to cognitive impairment in older adults.

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How to Burn Fat in Your Sleep

  • Studies show the best temperature for sleeping is rather cool, but optimal sleep may be more complicated than simply turning down your thermostat
  • If you can’t “shut your brain off” at night, your brain temperature is likely elevated; cooling down your brain has positive effects on sleep
  • People with more brown fat have faster metabolism, better blood sugar control, and higher insulin sensitivity when exposed to cold temperatures.

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