With the demands of today’s society, people are staying up later and waking up earlier, sacrificing time spent doing something very important: sleeping. In an article published recently in Science (Xie et al. 2013. Science 342:373-377), sleep was shown to be critical for removing waste products from the brain. Using mice, the authors looked that the exchange of fluids between the brain and the rest of the body. They found that while awake, there is very little fluid exchange, causing potentially toxic waste products to build up in the brain. However when the mice were asleep, the waste products were quickly cleared from the brain. One of the toxins that the authors looked at is implicated in many brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, mice that are forced to stay awake die within days to weeks.
So what does this all mean? It means that the perceived pressure from society to stay up all night and work all day is unhealthy. We need sleep, that’s why our body tells us we are tired. This article serves to emphasize how important sleep is to our brains. Getting a good night’s sleep could be the best thing that we can do for our health – it makes us feel alert, increases our productivity, and in light of this article, may help to prevent disease. All of these things are good for society as they lead to fewer mistakes on the job, and reduced absenteeism. It’s time we start pressuring people to get a good sleep, not to stay up all night. Have a good night’s sleep everyone!
Stay safe and stay informed,