While You Were Sleeping, Your Brain was Housekeeping

WhileSleepingJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

How many of us can say we get sufficient quality sleep on a regular basis? Barring the usual distractions of TV, electronics, children, and pets, more than a few of us have trouble falling or staying asleep. In fact, many of us are desperate for a good night’s rest. Statistics show an estimated 164 million Americans struggle to sleep one or more nights per week. While expert opinions differ on how much sleep is required for good health, most people don’t function optimally with less than seven hours of sleep. Over time, continued sleep shortages can increase the risk of disorders including depression, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Lack of proper sleep is now linked to cognitive decline and memory loss, and may be a factor in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

How much sleep is enough? In general, people are getting less sleep than they need, yet it appears that there is no magic number. Nathaniel Watson, M.D., co-director of the University of Washington Sleep Center and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine states, “You need as much sleep as it takes for you to stay awake and alert the next day, without caffeine. Waking up in the middle of the night is not a problem, as long as you can fall back to sleep again.” Those conditioned to getting by on six or less hours of nightly sleep may believe they’ve adapted well to their own sleep schedule. However, memory tests show that healthy sleep is essential for optimal health and function. Evidence suggests that adequate sleep is very important for learning and memory, strengthening neural connections, and clearing out toxins and waste.

When we are sleeping the brain is actively cycling through phases of sleep, replaying the day’s sensory impressions and revving up activity during the deep dreamless stage. The busy task of selection, consolidation, and cementation of long-term memories takes precedence over the potential formation of connections that form memories deemed less important by the brain. Researchers have found the undistracted brain links new information to related memories during sleep; finding and building associations that may ultimately lead to inspiration, creative insight and problem solving. Facing a challenging situation and having a hard time deciding on a course of action? It just may be there is something to be said for the adage, “Sleep on it!”

While the body has its own systems for removing toxins and wastes, the brain must do its own housekeeping. Until recently, it was believed that the brain did not have any lymphatic vessels to help clear away toxins and cellular waste. While still being studied, researchers now believe that the brain has its own pathways or waste clearing channels. Known as the glympthatic system, it turns on during sleep to clear the neurotoxic waste produced during wakefulness. While the question of why we sleep may be debated for some time, data suggests that sleep patterns that negatively affect this highly active waste removal system may have implications in neurogenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Regular quality sleep supports physical health, improved immune function, better regulated hormone production and increased ability to reduce stress; as well as increased mental performance, and improved memory, alertness, learning ability, and decision making.  Along with age-related decline in glympthatic function and a stiffening of the arterial walls, aging is the highest risk factor for accumulation of protein aggregation identified in neurodegenerative diseases. The biological need for sleep suggests the brain must enter this active state to promote elimination of soluble proteins, metabolites, and potentially neurotoxic waste products, including brain damaging beta-amyloid that is strongly implicated in Alzheimer’s. If you needed one more good reason to prioritize sleep, giving the brain sufficient time to clean house may be the best one yet.

Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high quality products in support of healthy cognitive function and quality sleep:

Vinpocetine 20 mgVinpocetine 20 mg by Pure Encapsulations®: This natural compound derived from periwinkle leaves promotes healthy cognition and cerebrovascular health. Along with its antioxidant properties, Vinpocetine may also have the potential to support a healthy memory by supporting healthy blood flow and oxygen utilization. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO, hypoallergenic, vegetarian formulation.


Brain Calm (99579-)Brain Calm by Douglas Laboratories®: Formulated with inositol, GABA and passion flower, Brain Calm promotes relaxation and provides support for neurological health and a calmer brain, while reducing feelings of anxiousness and stress. Gluten and soy free, vegan formulation.


CalmEz Brain TonicCalmEZ Brain Tonic by Allergy Research Group: This hypoallergenic proprietary blend of Chinese herbs supports the body’s ability to sleep comfortably. Gluten free, hypoallergenic formulation.


ReHydrationReHydration by Energetix: This homeopathic formulation assists the body with deep absorption and utilization of water at the cellular level. Homeopathic ingredients turn on the body’s internal communication system to help the cells absorb and efficiently utilize water to the best advantage. May improve energy levels, skin texture and concentration in a noticeable way. Gluten free.


DreamOn Natural...DreamOn™ Natural Sleep Aid by Ridgecrest Herbals®: This homeopathic remedy provides a safe and effective solution for occasional sleeplessness or failure to stay asleep. Small doses of 10 homeopathic ingredients work synergistically to create sound, gentle and restful sleep without morning after effects. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO formulation.


Glutathione Plus ...Glutathione Plus™ by Douglas Laboratories®: This reduced form of glutathione is a well absorbed free radical fighter, which helps to rein in cell structure damage and metabolic activity disruption. Ingredients include vitamin C, reduced glutathione and NAC.


Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep
Why Americans Can’t Sleep. http://www.consumerreports.org/sleep/why-americans-cant-sleep/
Sleep, Leaning and Memory. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory
The Secret to Memory? A Good Night’s Sleep. http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/sleep/articles/2015/the-secret-to-memory-a-good-nights-sleep/
Glymphatic System May Play Key Role in Removing Brain Waste.  http://www.mdedge.com/neurologyreviews/article/114150/alzheimers-cognition/glymphatic-system-may-play-key-role-removing
Preclinical Brain Amyloid Deposition is linked to Poor Sleep. http://www.mdedge.com/neurologyreviews/article/76219/alzheimers-cognition/preclinical-brain-amyloid-deposition-linked-poor
The Glymphatic System – A Beginner’s Guide. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4636982/



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