The toxic waste materials that get accumulated in the brain due to neural activity affect brain function and accelerate the aging process. By eliminating this toxic waste from the brain, we might be able to prevent brain diseases such as Alzheimer's. Some recent studies have shown that the brain employs a cleaning process to eliminate waste during sleep.
Researchers at the University of Rochester studied brain function in sleeping mice. They were surprised to discover that when the mice are asleep, there is a dramatic increase in the quantity of cerebrospinal fluid circulating through their nervous system and brain. This fluid plays an important role in eliminating toxic waste from the brain. Interestingly, the brain cells of mice shrink during sleep. This allows more cerebrospinal fluid to circulate through the brain and remove more waste. This is an important finding that was mentioned in a study published in the journal Science. When the mice are awake, there is a drop in the amount of the cerebrospinal fluid in their brain. It is not clear whether the human brain also employs a similar cleaning technique while we are asleep. So such studies have been conducted in human beings as yet. However, some studies conducted in baboons and rats have shown that they have a cleaning system that removes toxic waste from the brain during sleep.
Scientists believe that these studies will help us to get a better understanding of our brain function. These studies also establish a strong relation between brain diseases and sleeping disorders.
One of the waste products that get removed from the brain during sleep is beta amyloid. Alzheimer's patients have sticky plaques in their brain. Interestingly these plaques are formed by beta amyloid. When an individual is awake they tend to have a higher concentration of beta amyloid in their brain. During sleep, the brain tries to remove this waste. If that is the case, a person might be able to reduce their risk for Alzheimer's by getting some extra sleep. Actually, several studies have shown that sleep plays a crucial role in preventing brain illnesses. Irrespective of our age, all of us need to get adequate sleep to stay alert and healthy. Seniors are no different. Regular physical activity also improves brain function in seniors. Seniors should remain socially and physically active. Learning a new skill or solving puzzles like Sudoku exercises the brain cells and improves their function.
Dementia affects millions of people. There is no cure for this degenerative condition. Doctors usually encourage people to stay active and eat healthy foods. In the not-so-distant future, they may also advise people to get extra sleep.
While scientists do not fully understand the purpose of sleep, they are all convinced that sleep plays an important role in ensuring our well-being. In fact, sleep deprivation is detrimental to health because it affects the immune system. So, even if you are eating right and leading a physically active life, you will develop serious health problems if you don't get enough sleep.
If you have a senior parent who suffers from dementia, you should know how difficult it is to care for them. If you are looking for someone to take care of them while you are away, contact Right at Home. We provide senior care services to families in Canada.