Why We Need Sleep

Posted on Nov 21, 2013 in Health & Wellness

Sleep helps restore your brain. Without sleep, your brain function declines and ages faster.

The question has always been, why? But I just read a study that might give us a clue.

Scientists have recently discovered that your brain has a waste removal system they’re calling the glymphatic system. It gets rid of waste the same way your lymphatic system clears toxins through your liver.

The really interesting thing to me is that this system uses your glia cells and astrocytes, two types of brain cells.

What we’ve learned is that while you sleep, “water channels” that flow between your neurons expand to take away waste and buildup.1

Without sleep, you can’t remove as much waste. Your brain then ages faster and deteriorates. That makes taking care of your glial cells important in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s.

To make sure you get enough sleep, here are a couple of things I tell my patients:

  1. Sleep in quiet and darkness: If you sleep with the TV or the light on, you are interfering with your brain’s natural sleep cycle and production of sleep hormones like melatonin. Turn it all off and sleep in total darkness. Even blocking the light from under a door or covering the blue glow from an electronic device could stop you from waking up.
  1. Increase your thiamine intake: You might know it better as vitamin B1. It’s well known for supporting healthy circulation in the brain. But studies show thiamine improves sleep patterns when you have enough. The best food sources are organ meats, yeast, peas, pork, beans, and sunflower seeds. To regulate sleep, I recommend 40mg a day.

A good way to protect your glial cells so they can do their job of removing waste from your brain is with a plant compound called luteolin.

In one study, luteolin almost completely protected glial cells from free-radical damage and inflammation.2 It also improves memory and helps ease depression.

You can get luteolin from eating celery, green peppers, the herb thyme, and in chamomile and yarrow teas. There’s also a unique source of luteolin… it’s from the resin bees use to make their honeycombs called propolis. You can find it in most health food stores.

However, sleep and nutrition are just two of the many effective ways you can defend your brain against time and illness.