Sleep Helps “Detox” Your Brain

Scientists have long wondered about the function of sleep; from an evolutionary standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense. Sleep seems to be a waste of time, and an animal is much more vulnerable to predators while asleep. So     why is it built into our biology?

A team at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) recently found that during sleep the brain pumps cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through at an extremely accelerated rate. This is possible partly because brain cells shrink down during sleep, allowing more room for the CSF to circulate. A few years ago, the same team discovered that CSF was responsible for flushing harmful toxins and waste products out of the brain.

So, the hours spent during sleep are somewhat akin to running your brain through the wash cycle. This is important when you consider that some chronic brain diseases like Alzheimer’s are related to the presence of these waste toxins. This may explain why these same diseases are also often correlated with sleep disorders.

Insomnia is estimated to affect 30 to 40 percent of adults. A 2012 study of more than 10,000 people found that using prescription sleeping medications was linked to a dramatic rise in death and a variety of cancers.

This study, led by Dr. Danial Kripke of the Scripps Clinic, found that people who used as little as three sleeping pills in a year had a risk of death three times higher than normal. Clearly we need to sleep, but not with the assistance of sleeping pills.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat insomnia naturally, and a Canadian research study from 2004 showed how it may work physiologically.

A c u p u n c t u r e prompts a general chemical release within the brain from our bodies’ own stores. These chemicals include endorphins, which are our own builtin pain relievers that help us relax and feel good, and also melatonin.

M e l a t o n i n release is a vital part of our daily rhythm and prepares our body for sleep, but melatonin production often drops as we age. I was very interested to learn this as I’ve noticed in my own practice that regardless of what the primary focus of the acupuncture treatment is, the vast majority of patients report sleeping significantly better.

Adria Amenti, MSTCM, L.Ac., owns Amenti Acupuncture. Call her at 334-7816.


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