New aspect to importance of sleep

Friday, October 18, 2013

The bears probably have the right idea.

With one of the first snows of the season overnight, it's tempting to crawl into our caves and stay there until spring, especially for the winter-averse among us.

It's important to get plenty of fresh air, sunlight and exercise, even in the winter, of course, but it's also important to take advantage of the chance to get a good night's sleep.

We're all aware of the health benefits to sleep -- 12 to 18 hours a day recommended for newborns, 7 to 9 hours a night for adults -- when it comes to mental and physical health, but there is some surprising new information when it comes to Alzheimer's disease.

A study, published this week in Science, indicates that the brain, when you're asleep, turns on a special system that flushes out toxic substances called amyloid-beta proteins, that accumulate into the plaques that contribute to Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

A University of Rochester Medical Center team coined the term "glymphatic system" for the system, which is 10 times more active while you're asleep than while you're awake.

They found that brain cells contract by as much as 60 percent during sleep, leaving room for cerebrospinal fluid to move more freely among them, carrying away the proteins and other neural waste into the circulatory system and away.

Previous research found that depriving mice of sleep led to a buildup of the offending protein in the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about sleep here: http://1.usa.gov/17xUHt0

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