Sleep vs. Toxins

A team of scientists in the US have claimed that the reason why sleep is essential to us is because it acts a “waste removal system.”

The brain has always been regarded as one of the most intriguing organs in our body, and this recent discovery only provokes more questions on what we might yet have to discover. This recent study has shown that the brain is responsible for removing toxins that we accumulate over the course of a day, especially after a whole day of hard thinking. As college students, getting the recommended eight hours of sleep may already seem like an impossible task, but this indicates that we might have to rethink our sleeping cycle.

However some students, especially athletes and students with an average of eighteen credits, find that sleep can seem like a rare luxury.  Senior Andrea Maxwell has been on the cross country team throughout her four years at Saint Leo: “Practice means that I have earlier mornings than some students. I try my best to get at least seven hours of sleep, but some nights it can be tough given the homework load and other commitments. Before a race, I try to get a lot more sleep because I want to perform my best. I wish I was able to get more sleep, because I feel tired most of the time because I get up so early, I am busy throughout the day and study and do homework throughout the night.”

Biology major Antonio Roki shared similar views. Roki expressed his minimal time to sleep: “I typically get four hours of sleep on a daily basis. At first it doesn’t feel too bad, but as the week goes on, I feel exhausted. I can’t function or concentrate in class. Sometimes I wake up late for class. I try to tackle this by taking micro naps that last ten to fifteen minutes during the day. A lot of caffeine is consumed to get me through.”

So with some students already struggling to even get the recommended hours of sleep, what are the consequences of less sleep according to this research?

Failure to remove these toxins, which can be correlated with a continuous cycle of sleep deficiency, can potentially be fatal by making people more vulnerable to brain disorders.

Following a previous discovery that the brain’s own glymphatic site was responsible in disposing of waste material, further research was encouraged using the help of mice.  Results indicated that when the subjects were asleep, the brain was ten times more active.

The lead researcher, Dr. Nedergaard, expressed the importance of sleep due to fact that the brain only has a specific amount of energy that it can allocate when awake or asleep. Since the process of toxin removal has not been observed to occur during the day, it is only accomplished with a good night’s sleep. This process is essential to stay alive.

Resisting sleep and pulling all nighters are not prudent. Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s are a result of the loss of brain cells. This is encouraged by the presence and accumulation of damaged proteins in the brain. The build up of toxins over time all will eventually encourage disorders like this when older. This makes sleep and its resulting removal of toxins all the more critical.

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