Sleep is your Brain on Drain

July 13, 2015

Sleep is Your Brain Drain 

 Reference:   Science Daily June 2015

 What a great feeling to wake up in the morning and feel really refreshed!   You can get stuff done. You have ideas. You feel full of vitality and energy. What just happened?   Your brain got scrubbed, washed, flushed, and reset! Sleep is dangerous.   Mammals get eaten during sleep.   Yet every mammal does it. It must be so important that it is worth the risk.   So, just what is happening? We have reported on it before, so here is a second article building on the first

 In the Journal of Experimental Medicine, Dr. Aspelund now reports that he was able to demonstrate the connection of the lymphatic system of the adult human brain to the rest of the lymphatic system.   The lymph vessels are so delicate, and they collapse so completely when not flowing that finding them takes painstaking searching.     

And that’s what Dr Aspelund did.   He found the links and anatomical connections. When you are awake, there is very little flow in the “glymphatic system”. But when you sleep, something dramatic happens. Your neurons begin to shrink and the spaces between cells increases dramatically.   Flow of the brain's lymphatic system increases as much as 3 fold during sleep.   More interesting is that when the Alzheimer’s associated protein beta-amyloid is injected into a mouse’s brain, it can be shown to clear more rapidly when the brain is then asleep. Our brain is a very busy organ, using as much as 25% of our total energy. Just being awake and taking care of business, you are accumulating breakdown products of brain messaging.   The synapses, or connections between brain cells, are often quite far away from the body of the cell.   The wires that connect the cells to their synapses are, of a necessity, long and very delicate. For a small, compact cell, the simple diffusion of chemicals inside the cell allows for breakdown products to be excreted and metabolized. But what do you do when you have very delicate, long, slender pipes that send chemicals inches away from where they were manufactured?   

Of a necessity that stuff is going to accumulate.   For example, we do know that adenosine accumulates during wakefulness.   Adenosine is a breakdown product of energy usage. It comes from ATP, our cellular gasoline.   When awake, adensosine levels in the brain rise. When we sleep, adenosine gets flushed out and ATP levels get recharged. 

 What happens if you don’t get enough sleep? A lot. Total sleep deprivation will kill you. Less than 7 hours a night and you start showing higher stress hormones and get on the road to becoming overweight. Less than 6 hours and we can show you start having risks for diabetes.   There may be much more to sleep than just flushing the brain as all these other endocrine disruptions suggest a very intricate balance of functions. But maybe all of them depend on getting a chemical flush. 

 You thought that sleep was all about your brain getting reorganized and consolidating energy. That’s what we have all been taught.   Now we know differently. Sleep is there to clean out the gunk, to flush out the poison.   It is only with the specific  "unconsciousness of sleep"  that our neurons shrink, allowing the lymph system to start flowing and the waste products to be washed out. The effects of poor sleep are awful. 

 WWW. What will work for me?   I just had a great night’s sleep. It feels wonderful. I feel full of energy.   I can write this column.   Try to get at least 7 hours.   Take 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime.   Don’t watch disturbing TV before bed. Turn the lights down lower later in the evening.   Don’t go to bed mad.   

 Pop Quiz

  1. The lymphatic system of the brain is called the glymphatic system. T or F.          Answer:  T (Open book – open internet makes for great testing, doesn’t it!)
  1. The brain’s lymphatic drainage in humans has been proven to both exist and connect to our other lymphatic system. T or F.                       Answer:  True
  1. Your brain neurons shrink in size when you sleep.                 Answer:   That’s it, about 15%
  1. Your brain’s lymphatic drainage increases when you sleep.   T or F.               Answer:   Right on
  1. You build up adenosine, a breakdown product of energy production during wakefulness. T or F                  Answer.  Bingo. You now know the essentials of why you sleep.