Sleep: The new health craze?

The last few decades have seen various wellness fads and health scares. Some topics that come to mind are sodium, cholesterol, saturated fats, trans fats, carbs, acai berry, bran, oats, whole grains, organic, jogging, yoga and yogurt.

Maybe it’s time we focus on sleep as the key to health. After all we are a sleep deprived nation, with 50-70 million US adults having trouble sleeping. Two news articles today make me think it might be time for sleep to gain its due:

Regular bedtimes help kids’ behavior reports on a study of 10,000 seven year old kids. Those who went to bed at a regular time had significantly fewer behavior problems than those who didn’t have a regular bedtime. The effects were reversible, too: kids who started going to bed at a regular time started acting better, and those who reverted to more variable timing got worse.

Kids are one thing –and adults may not give that much attention to those little brats anyway– but when studies start linking sleep patterns with neurological decline, then people will take notice. Sleep takes out brain’s trash; buildup of refuse makes you sleepy offers a theory for why we sleep. According to a new study, all systems in the body build up waste products that need to be disposed of, but the brain is a bit different in how it deals with it.

“The lymph system collects metabolites from tissues throughout the body and dumps them into the bloodstream, where they’re carried to the liver for breakdown and removal. The brain’s metabolic waste concentrates in interstitial fluid present in all corners of the brain. A second slurry — cerebrospinal fluid — circulates throughout the brain, and where the two fluids flow together, the metabolic byproducts are carried away by the cerebrospinal fluid…

Scientists… found that the brains of mice — whether they are sleeping or anesthetized — showed more activity and volume at the “transfer stations,” where interstitial and cerebrospinal fluid meet, than did mice who were awake and active. The result was that by the end of a sleep period — around early evening — mouse brains had their lowest concentration of neural refuse of the day. By the time they were ready to sleep again, those concentrations had reached their peak.”

The researchers highlight the link between lack of sleep and neurodegenerative disease, and hint that not getting a good night’s sleep may lead to dementia, since the “trash” doesn’t have the chance to be taken out.

So my prediction: the next health craze may be sleep.

By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.

 

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