Thinking about pulling an all-nighter? You might want to reconsider the detrimental effects of losing sleep.
Recently, the University of Rochester published a new study shedding light on yet another reason sleep is so critical to our health: the removal of neurotoxic waste. As it turns out, when we are asleep, waste products of daily neural activity are removed much faster than when we are awake.
According to the study, as we sleep, the interstitial space surrounding the cells of the brain increases. This allows cerebrospinal fluid to circulate through the brain, mixing with interstitial fluid and removing interstitial waste products such as Aβ proteins, which are associated with wakefulness and Alzheimer’s disease. So how might we prevent the accumulation of waste products in our brains? The following tips can make a big difference.
1) Set a regular sleeping schedule.
I know on a weekend it’s extra tempting to sleep-in, but waking up at the same time strengthens your circadian clock. This makes it easier to wake up in the morning! In the very least, try not to go to bed at 2 AM some nights and 10 PM others—you need some consistency in your sleep schedule.
2) A good night’s sleep is usually seven to eight hours.
However, there are exceptions to this. According to Dr. Christopher Winter you may not need as much sleep if it takes you more than an hour to fall asleep or if you don’t feel fatigued during the day.
3) Stay away from large meals close to bedtime.
Starting up your metabolism right before bed isn’t healthy. Think of your body as a fire. As you add more wood to it—or, in this case, food—it adds more fuel to your body. A light snack, however, can help you get a good night’s sleep because let’s be honest, it’s hard to fall asleep hungry. Finish eating big meals at least two to three hours prior to bedtime.
4) Your bed is for sleeping and sex.
Your bed is for sleeping, not looking up pictures of Ryan Gosling. Try not to study, use your computer or watch TV on/in your bed. This will weaken your brain’s association between bed and sleep.
5) Take a nap.
It’s recommended to limit naps to 45 minutes or less or risk drifting into slow-wave sleep. This results in grogginess and disorientation that can take more than 30 minutes to get rid of. It takes the average person about 15 minutes to fall asleep, so plan accordingly!
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