A good night's sleep is like a deep clean for your brain




I suspect my cleaning staff always misses a few spots.


Let’s not over-state the conclusions to the science here. Yes, the data show that during sleep, the space between neurons becomes more accessible. They also showed that, when injected into the brain, small peptides like amyloid beta (the major culprit in Alzheimer’s Disease) and insulin are cleared faster during sleep than during waking.

Those are pretty exciting results. However, most pop-media mistakenly and automatically make the unfounded (but admittedly reasonable) leap that this clearance is therefore proven to be one of the primary purposes of sleep. This was not directly demonstrated by any of the findings of the study. Indeed, that this mechanism, under normal circumstances, provides any kind of ‘washing’ of toxins is not at all clear. After all, “good” signals would probably get washed away ,too.


Personally I think third shift should be abolished. It sucks having to be awake all night until morning only to have my body actually want to be awake then. I don’t mind being up to 2 or 3, but by 5:30 or so I’m fighting it so hard.


Or just hire people who prefer to be awake then.


I eat some celery before hittin’ the hay, so that I get the complete internal Diamond Wash package.


Broccoli man here. Some like it rough!


I wake up in the night with the most brilliant ideas. Sometimes I get them just before I fall asleep. They’re gone in the morning. I think the cleanings I get need to be a little less rigorous.


Nothing quite so annoying as a smudge on the doors of perception.


Billy Wilder used to tell a story about a screen writer who had the same problem. Every other morning he remembers having had a brilliant idea, something totally new, but he never remembers the idea itself. So eventually he keeps a pen and a notepad next to his bed. That night he wakes up again with that absolutely new and fantastic idea and manages to scribble down a few words before falling asleep again. The next morning he wakes up, remembers he had an idea - remembers he wrote it down and suddenly is totally awake and excited. He grabs the notepad and reads: boy meets girl.


It’s not so much the smudges I mind. They always forget to remove the junk mail from the letterbox, leave the lights on in the pantry and there’s that one cigarette butt in the ashtray on the mantelpiece. I also suspect that someone has been tampering with the deadbolt, but nothing conclusive yet. Just that eerie feeling someone has been sleeping in my head.


True story, one night I had a dream that was like speeded-up images from a surveillance camera, with a progress bar on the foreground, as if a reboot was in progress. Woke up that day feeling fresher than I had in weeks.


Hi. I’m an editor at Nautilus and the editor of the post. We agree that it’s not an air-tight proof that either this cleaning happens during sleep or that this is one of the primary functions of sleep. It does seem to be pretty good evidence of the former and is suggestive of the latter. Sleep is a complicated process, and it’s likely that it’s been co-opted at different points of our evolution to accomplish different things for the brain. (There is evidence, for example, that some synapses are weakened during sleep, as you mentioned.) It’s hard to get those qualifications into something as short as a headline, but hopefully it came through in the body of the post (like in the last paragraph).

As with almost everything else of interest, Requires Further Research…

Thanks for checking out the post.

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