Many of us suffer from insomnia on the best of days but with the pandemic, many suffer from COVID sleep deprivation. You know that feeling, you lay in bed and your mind is racing a thousand miles an hour, doom is hovering overhead right? Well if this describes you, you will be unhappy to know that most humans spend one-third of their lives asleep! One reason for sleeping may be to rest the body and brain however did you know that the brain is highly active during sleep. Sleep definitely helps consolidate memories and learning and some have speculated that during sleep, unused synapses are pruned, strengthening the rest of the synapses in the same way that pruning dead branches enhances the health of a rose bush.
Many studies have been done on the brain during sleep but one discovery was that of the glymphatic system, first suggested in the 1980s as identified definitely by researchers in 2012 according to a recent JAMA article. The article explains that “the glymphatic system is a drainage system that mingles “fresh” cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with waste product-rich brain interstitial fluid (ISF) and flushes the fluid and waste products out of the brain in the systemic circulation”.
Sleep deprivation is linked to several major diseases that can result in impairment in the glymphatic system function. It appears that a principal reason for sleep may be to activate the newly discovered glymphatic system to flush waste products from the brain. Not very appetizing but maybe you shouldn’t skip that dose of Melatonin tonight after all! Stay well and stay tuned!