You May Be Sending Your Brain Into Self-Destruction Mode When You Are Sleep Deprived
To quote a teenager I once heard screaming down my block, “Shizz just got real”.
Sleep for 8, and everything will be great. Sleep for 2, and you’ll realise that’s too few. That may not be an impressive rhyme scheme, but you get my point.
This week, I’d like to talk about the importance of sleep for your brain. Plenty of studies, over the years, have talked about the links between sleep and diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, depression etc., and as if that wasn’t scary enough, a recent research showed how the brain begins eating itself when it doesn’t get enough sleep. Neuroscientist Michele Bellesi from the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy studied the mammalian brain's response to poor sleeping habits in mice, and found an astounding similarity between well-rested and sleepless mice. The process of clearing out worn-out cells, so that they can be replaced by healthy ones, happens when we are sleeping. Turns out, the same process happens when we don’t get sleep, except that this time, the process gets out of control, and starts to attack even the healthy cells. Look at it this way:
You want to eat a banana, so you peel it, but then, you proceed to throw away both the peel and the edible fruit that is inside.
Such uncontrolled, destructive activities in the brain are often seen in cases of neurodegeneration and in diseases like Alzheimer’s. In 2016, worldwide, nearly 44 million people had Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Neurodegenerative diseases have seen a constant rise in the past 20 years, and so has sleep deprivation. 50-70 million adults in the US alone report having a sleep disorder, including snoring, sleep apnoea, and insomnia.
A hundred questions remain unanswered. Is the process that is seen in mice replicated in human brains? Can catching up on sleep reverse the damage? Is there a way to prevent the damage from happening? Are there any additional contributing factors that we may be missing?
It’s too soon to know, but the truth is, for whatever reasons, most of us do struggle to get the bare minimum of sleep. I say that even if the threat didn’t apply to humans, I wouldn’t want to risk my brain eating itself; would you?
I have to admit here that my own life isn’t a collage of undisturbed, restful nights. Au contraire, there have been days when I’ve been so anxious that I couldn’t catch even a wink of sleep. Some other days, sleep eluded me because of stress, and sometimes, God alone knows why I just couldn’t get some shut-eye.
But on such days, the 2 things that have done me wonders are warm milk and a sniff of lavender essential oil. We, at healthhunt, firmly believe in the power of nature to heal and remedy any disease of the body, mind, and soul. So if you’re finding it difficult to sleep and don’t quite like the idea of your brain attacking itself, consider this a parting gift from me: