In the past decade, numerous studies have linked healthy sleep cycles to better overall physical and mental health in people of all groups. People who have set routines for sleeping are also seen to be more active and live longer than those who do not get the suggested amount of hours for sleep.
Now, a new study from Boston University adds to the medical literature on the benefits of maintained sleep cycles and shows that following recommendations for sleeping habits can help boost the health of the brain.
Generally, the vast majority believes that sleeping is a time where all organs in the body, including the brain, are at rest and working less than they do when a person is awake.
However, this is not true. Contrary to popular belief, the brain is also actively working when a person is sleeping. The new study suggests that the organ is actually engaged in one of the most important procedures that help in ‘cleansing’ the body called the glymphatic system.
The glymphatic system is a part of the central nervous system in the body which ensures the clearance of certain substances and toxins from the body.
For instance, amyloid-betas are a type of proteins which are formed during the time a person is awake. These proteins slowly accumulate in the brain by the end of the day.
The brain needs to cleanse these proteins to avoid them from amalgaming further and damaging the different types of neurons. However, to do so, the body needs to be sleeping.
Therefore, if a person does not get enough sleep on a daily basis, the brain is unable to cleanse itself and get rid of the protein buildup, leading to long-term effects on the health of the brain.
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Previous research has associated the build-up of amyloid-beta proteins in the brain to a higher risk of developing different forms of dementia. The recent study builds on these findings and further investigates the link between sleep and dementia.
A common question raised about the newly discovered link is that can the lack of sleep and disturbed sleep cycles then increase the risk of dementia?
According to the director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center and a professor in the department of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Alon Y. Avidan, there is evidence to show that poor sleep cycles do impact the brain’s ability to remove any toxic protein buildup.
However, there is no evidence to confirm that sleeping less than recommended hours and not maintaining a sleep cycle can cause dementia ten years later.
Till now, studies have only yet shown that poor sleeping habits can indeed impact the risk of the disease but no research has concluded that it can cause dementia.
The vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association, Heather Snyder, states that while research is showing that conditions like sleep apnea can impact the development of dementia but further investigation is needed.
At the moment, it can only be said that healthy sleep cycles can potentially decrease the chances of many health conditions including dementia.