A recent study published in Science Magazine shines some light on the importance of sleep in the detox process. Scientists have long proven that sleep gives our brains time to process information, memories, and miscellaneous tidbits that we pick up during the day. The brain needs this downtime to determine which moments it should file away in the memory and which it can discard. There is scientific evidence to support the idea of “sleeping on” a difficult decision. The brain’s processing period during deep sleep can give clarity and help streamline the thought process. 

Did you know that being asleep is not the opposite of being awake? There are necessary, distinct, processes and functions that the brain and body perform only while sleeping. In the evolutionary sense sleep seems like a bad idea. When small rodents, or any creature for that matter, go to sleep they leave themselves especially vulnerable to predators. Realizing this, why do we sleep?

This new study, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, suggests that we sleep because it gives our brains to “clean up” toxic byproducts, mis-folded proteins, and other cellular junk that can accumulate throughout the day. The leader of the study, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, explains it as the brain acts “like a dishwasher.” While we sleep there is a rush of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that washes away the buildup of harmful proteins and particles. The dishwasher analogy may seem a little extreme but scientists are realizing that it is not. The difference in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid circulating in a sleeping versus an awake brain is a significant amount and the size of the brain even changes between deep sleep and awake.

This study was performed in mice but the same brain washing process has been studied in rats and baboons as well. Like any good study though it raises as many questions as it clarifies. Scientists are now wondering why this washing process can only take place while we are sleeping. Early speculation suggests that this process consumes more energy than the body could support if it was also required to be walking, talking, and thinking.

The most important finding for now is that sleep cannot be a compromise of the road to detoxification and health. Even with the prefect and diet and lifestyle if you don’t give your body time to heal, flush out, and rebuild you will not get the health results you are looking for!

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