Are The Janitors In Your Brain Getting A Chance To Do Their Job?

Mar 03, 2014 1 Min Read

Photo Source: Hey Paul Studios

I take my brain health seriously. How about you?

The New England Journal of Medicine says that brain-condition related deaths are sky-rocketing. Between 1979 and 2010, men are up 66% and women 92%.

Studies find that 54% of these could have been avoided. I think in the future this number will be higher. Prevention is key.

What if you could hire a crew of janitors to keep your brain in good condition? You already do have a crew, but they may not be getting a chance to do their job.

The answer: sleep.

The University of Rochester Medical Centre for Translational Neuromedicine released a study showing slumber gives your brain a chance to clear out potentially harmful waste that build up while you’re awake.

This waste includes amyloid beta – a driver of Alzheimer’s. Essentially, while you sleep your brain “takes out the trash”.

If we cut back on sleep the janitors may not have the time…

This process is called the glymphatic system. It is 10 times more active when you are sleeping than when you are awake.

Also note:

– Lack of sleep seems to play a role in dementia and other brain disorders.

– Cellular waste is flushed out of your brain cells and into your circulatory system, and then to the liver.

– Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped through your brain tissue to remove the waste. When you sleep, your brain cells shrink 60%. This allows the fluid to move faster and more freely.

– The pumping of this fluid takes a lot of energy. Energy that doesn’t seem to be available when you are awake and engaging actively with your environment.

The lead author of the study Dr Maiken Nedergaard puts it this way, “You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain your guests, or you can clean the house. But, you can’t really do both at the same time.”

The researchers point out that nearly all degenerative brain diseases are linked to the accumulation of cellular waste products.

Most studies indicate that if you add up all your minutes of sleep for the year and divide by 365, the number should be between seven and nine hours of sleep.

On a lighter note, Ernest Hemingway once said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”

Congratulations on learning something about your brain today. The Brain Bulletin is committed to help to do just that.

Always remember: “You are a genius!”

Enjoy your brain.

Terry Small is a brain expert who resides in Canada and believes that anyone can learn how to learn easier, better, faster, and that learning to learn is the most important skill a person can acquire. To interact with Small, email Click here for more brain bulletins. 

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This article is published by the editors of with the consent of the guest author. 

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