Get Some Sleep

Image by Jashar Awan

Recently I came across an opinion piece in the New York Times that discusses the necessity of sleep. There is much to learn about the process of sleep, such as the importance of glial cells––like astrocytes. More than one-hundred years ago Santiago Ramóny Cajal proposed that astrocytes control sleep and waking states. His intuition was correct and today it is known that these glial cells play an important role in clearing toxins from the brain during sleep, avoiding build up of proteins and other byproducts. Now, the Nedergaard Lab suggests that the glymphatic system or “the brains equivalent of the lymphatic system” is crucial in the toxic clearing process. This can be described as an efficient “plumbing” system that allows fluid to drain out along veins in the brain, clearing up pathways between cells. In addition to clearing out toxins, astrocytes are important in myelination and neuroplasticity, yet the timing of when all these processes occur during the sleep cycle may not be entirely clear. Overall, the consensus appears to be that that long-term or chronic sleep deprivation puts one at greater risk for more cognitive related health problems because it is harder for the brain to heal itself quickly. Rather than strengthening existing neuron connections or creating new ones, the brain is still working on its filtering system and slowly.

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