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Sleep 'cleans' the brain of toxins

Sleep 'cleans' the brain of toxins
The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day's thinking, researchers have shown. The US team believe the "waste removal system" is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep. Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean. They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders. One big question for sleep researchers is why do animals sleep at all when it leaves them vulnerable to predators? It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that "housework" may be one of the primary reasons for sleep. "The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states - awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up," said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard. Related:  SleepMedicine in Strange placesREM

How much can an extra hour's sleep change you? 9 October 2013Last updated at 04:24 ET The average Briton gets six-and-a-half hours' sleep a night, according to the Sleep Council. Michael Mosley took part in an unusual experiment to see if this is enough. It has been known for some time that the amount of sleep people get has, on average, declined over the years. This has happened for a whole range of reasons, not least because we live in a culture where people are encouraged to think of sleep as a luxury - something you can easily cut back on. We wanted to see what the effect would be of increasing average sleep by just one hour. The volunteers were randomly allocated to two groups. While we were waiting to see what effect this would have, I went to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford to learn more about what actually happens when we sleep. In the Sleep Centre, they fitted me up with a portable electro-encephalograph, a device that measures brain wave activity. Deep sleep only lasts for a few hours.

blog In the News: Four in five children are not ‘connected to nature’ - Large numbers of British children are missing out on engaging with nature, according to a new study. Red squirrel First of its kind The ground-breaking study, led by the RSPB, marks the first time that connectivity between children and nature has been studied in the UK. Following 3 years of research, the project concluded that only 21% of children between the ages of 8 and 12 were ‘connected to nature’ at a level which is considered to be both realistic and achievable for all young people. The report stems from growing concerns over the distinct lack of contact with and experience of nature among modern children, which some have argued is having a negative impact on their education, health and behaviour. Horse chestnuts in autumn Connecting to nature Around 1,200 children from across the UK took part in the study, which was based on a specially developed questionnaire. “This report is ground-breaking,” said Rebekah Stackhouse, Education and Youth Programmes Manager for RSPB Scotland.

Bad sleep 'dramatically' alters body A run of poor sleep can have a potentially profound effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers. The activity of hundreds of genes was altered when people's sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for a week. Writing in the journal PNAS, the researchers said the results helped explain how poor sleep damaged health. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to substandard sleep. What missing hours in bed actually does to alter health, however, is unknown. So researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night. More than 700 genes were altered by the shift. Meanwhile the natural body clock was disturbed - some genes naturally wax and wane in activity through the day, but this effect was dulled by sleep deprivation.

Body clock 'reset button' found 3 October 2013Last updated at 14:02 ET By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News Will the body's time ever be as easily to adjust as a clock's? Drugs that rapidly tweak the body clock in order to avoid jet lag and the pains of shift work have moved a step closer after research in Japan. The team at Kyoto University has found the clock's 'reset button' inside the brain. Their study, published in the journal Science, showed the button could be used to switch the clock to a new time zone in a single day. Experts said the team was "close to the money" in the hunt for a jet lag cure. There are clocks throughout the body and a "master clock" in the brain, keeping the body in sync with the world around it to make people sleepy at night. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote It really is very exciting for our field. End QuoteDr Michael HastingsBody clock scientist The clock uses light to help keep track of time, but it is naturally stubborn and adjusts slowly. Loosen up 'Remarkable'

The myth of the eight-hour sleep Image copyright Other We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night - but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists. In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks. Image copyright bbc "It's not just the number of references - it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge," Ekirch says.

Lucid Dreamers Produce The Fastest Brainwave Frequencies Ever Recorded Lucid dreaming is one category of dreams that many people experience. It occurs when the individual is dreaming and during that dream the individual is completely aware that they are dreaming. Some people report a low-level lucidity state where one is aware they are dreaming but not able to alter the content of the dream. Other people have experienced high-level lucidity where one is aware they are dreaming but are also able to alter the dream, and have the freedom to do whatever they desire within the dream. Dreams are a fascinating phenomenon as they provide us with insights into a world full of experiences we cannot perceive or create in a completely conscious state, or can we? Lucid dreaming is a documented phenomenon; researchers continue to explore it as it shows some very significant brain patterns and biological happenings within the body. Below is a list of brainwaves and the different frequencies they operate at: Alpha Brainwaves: Alpha brainwaves are even higher in frequency.

'Afternoon naps' aid children's learning 23 September 2013Last updated at 20:59 ET Napping may help consolidate learning, experts say Getting young children to take an hour-long nap after lunch could help them with their learning by boosting brain power, a small study suggests. A nap appeared to help three-to-five-year-olds better remember pre-school lessons, US researchers said. University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers studied 40 youngsters and report their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The benefit persisted in the afternoon after a nap and into the next day. The study authors say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning. Continue reading the main story “Start Quote This is important, because pre-school nurseries are divided on whether they should allow their children a nap” End QuotePaediatrician Dr Robert Scott-Jupp Following a nap, children recalled 10% more of the information they were being tested on than they did when they had been kept awake.

Shinrin-yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing A walk in the woods can be a fun way to spend a weekend or holiday, but as it turns out, it may have health benefits that surpass what you expect. In Japan, the practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a practice observed by about a quarter of the country. Dr. Qing Li is considered to be one of the world's foremost experts on shinrin-yoku. He is associate professor in the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and serves as president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine and Vice-President and Secretary General of International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine (INFOM). Photography by Dr. Dr. “In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan first proposed a new movement called 'forest bathing trip' (shinrin-yoku) to promote a healthy lifestyle," Li explained. The Power of Forests Can Japanese Practices Work Abroad? This begs the question, can the health benefits of forest bathing be translated to other nations? Children and Nature Dr.

9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Dreaming There’s a lot we still don’t understand when it comes to sleep. We know certain changes occur in the brain, and we have a few guesses as to why, but even the experts only have theories about many aspects of sleep in general and dreaming in particular. Sleep has long been thought of as a way to process, sort and store the day’s events, and more and more research is supporting that notion. But there’s plenty about dreaming we only think we know. We dream all night long. You’ve probably heard that dreams only occur during rapid eye movement or REM sleep. Insects and fish don’t have REM sleep. Although some dreams happen outside of REM sleep, identifying rapid eye movement in other species is about as close as we can get to predicting whether those creatures dream, according to University of California researchers. You’re less likely to remember a dream if your alarm jolts you awake. People who remember their dreams show different brain activity. We dream in real time. Like this article?