Dowsing the Brain on Fire with Sleep

Unlike the rest of our body, the brain is often forgotten simply because it has no pain receptors to grab your attention.  Instead it subtly protests in other ways such as brain fog, restlessness and lack of focus.  But like the rest of your body, the brain can become inflamed.  Mark Hyman refers to this as the brain being  “on fire” or inflamed and this problem touches nearly everyone as diseases e.g. Alzheimer’s and mood disorders are on the increase.

Inflammation is the body’s attempt at protecting itself where it aims removing harmful stimuli in order to begin the healing process.   So when you sprain your ankle, it is normal for the inflammation to begin in order to protect.   But chronic inflammation is another matter as it is ongoing and the original intent of the inflammation to  “protect” fails to eliminate whatever was causing the acute stage.  Basically the auto immune system then attacks healthy tissue mistaking it for harmful pathogens.   Hyman describes it as a  “smoldering fire of inflammation throughout the body” and the brain is not immune to it.

There are several causes to inflammation including diet, food allergies, digestive imbalances, exposure to toxins, low grade or hidden chronic infections, stress, sedentary lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies and sleep.  One factor can easily set off another but for now this article will focus upon sleep.

The importance of getting sufficient, good quality sleep has been well documented.  Around 7 hours per day is considered sufficient.  A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience reported that after several days of depriving mice of adequate sleep, the mice lost 25 per cent of their brain cells.   Furthermore, Medical News Today cited research from the University of Rochester Medical Centre showing the brain has different functional states when asleep and awake.   Restorative sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of by products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.

The team also reported that through the use of imaging technology on mice, they discovered a system that actually drains waste from the brain.   This system, dubbed  “glymphatic system” acts like the body’s regular lymphatic system but is managed by the brain’s glial cells.   During sleep, the brain undergoes actual physical changes that allow this system to work faster.  The brain cells shrink by 60 per cent that increases the space between so toxins are flushed away more effectively.

Watch for future tips on creating the best sleep environment.   In the meantime,  “The best cure for insomnia is to get lots of sleep.”   W C Fields



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