Oct. 17, 2013 — A good night's rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
"Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state," said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study.
For centuries, scientists and philosophers have wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain. Only recently have scientists shown that sleep is important for storing memories. In this study, Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues unexpectedly found that sleep may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules.
It certainly makes a lot of sense to think that Sleep holds a more physically cleansing purpose. A lot of the brain's function has to do with chemical reactions, as well as the passing of electrical signals.
So is it really all that far-fetched to think that sleep could cleanse the brain of chemicals that may be detrimental? Personally, I think it makes a whole world of sense. I definitely notice the difference between a good night's sleep, and a lack thereof.
In light of these current findings, I shall conduct some experiments of my own. So if you will excuse me - I need to get my bed ready for some "experimentation".