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  • Janet Golownia

Sleep the brains detoxifier

Updated: Aug 13, 2019




A new National Institute of Health funded study suggests that “sleep clears the brain of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration”. This study showed that the space between brain cells increases during sleep to allow the brain to flush out toxins that build up during our waking hours. “Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be in a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.


There is a lymph system in the brain called the glymphatic system. It controls the flow of cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. During sleep this glymphatic system opens to let fluid flow rapidly through the brain.

During the study “researchers inserted electrodes into the brain to directly measure the space between brain cells. They found that the space inside the brains of mice increased by 60% when the mice were asleep or anesthetized.”


“We need sleep. It cleans up the brain,” said Dr. Nedergaard.


Do you get 8 hours of restful sleep every night? If you said no here are some ideas to help improve your sleep.


Pranayama (breathing) techniques to help you sleep.

Left nostril breath: close off the right nostril and inhale /exhale through the left nostril. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system to calm and sooth the entire body. Take deep breaths counting to 3 or 4 on your inhale and exhale for the same count of 3 or 4. If you can lengthen your exhale to be one count longer than your inhale.


Humming bee breath: close your eyes and on inhale take a deep breath in through the nose; on exhale close off the ears with your index fingers while also making a humming sound with your voice (similar to the sound of a bee).


Belly breathing: Lie on your back on your yoga mat. Breath in deeply filling your lower lungs to the point where you feel and see your belly expand and rise. As you exhale the belly should fall. This is sometimes easier with a gentle weight on the belly like a sandbag or yoga block and blanket to bring your focus and attention to this area.


Drop the temperature in your house before bed.

In our modern world, we have climate control in our homes, offices, and cars. Our bodies don’t experience the fluctuation of temperature they’re waiting for. The movement patterns of our muscles (being active and engaged) are tied to that rhythm. When your body is staying at the same temperature day and night, your muscles are not totally activated. It’s why you get random movements, tremors, or twitches when you’re trying to sleep at night. Your muscles don’t know if it’s time to turn on or off. The temperature contrast causes them to shut off, so they’re not moving around at night, agitating you.


Stabilize blood sugar through night.

Keep in mind that sleep is your morning cortisol shutting off. When your blood sugar drops, cortisol rises to rescue you, so you don’t go into a coma. That is a good thing, but it isn’t helpful when you’re trying to sleep. What can you do about it? Have a light, carbohydrate-based meal right before bedtime. You want to have resistant carbohydrates, as these are the slowest to burn.

An easy way to get these carbs is to eat a banana that isn’t totally ripe (still has some green on it) or eat some cooled rice or cooled white potato.


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