Superpower: Sleep

Sleep is a wonderful thing. As a college student, sleep is essential to achieve everyday goals . If you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, you can barely function. Everyday tasks become more of a chore and less about fun.

The exact function of sleep is baffling. Why do we need it? Does sleep have to occur on a constant schedule? Can we survive without it? The answers to these questions vary from person to person.

sleeping
Sleep is a wonderful thing. Photo by Sydney Crawson.

A recent study says that you need sleep in order to clean your brain. Maiken Nedergaard, the lead scientist on the study, wrote her findings in J Cell Physiol. In her study, she says that the brain cells of lab mice shrank while they slept. Since the cells themselves shrank, the space between the cells stayed the same. This allows for the cerebral spinal fluid to flow ten times faster.

In one experiment, Nedergaasrd injected test subjects with certain proteins found in Alzheimer’s disease to see how well each subject’s brain could clear the toxins. The scientists found that the brains of sleeping mice could remove the toxins faster than the mice that were awake. As a result, Nedergaasrd believes that the brain cleans more actively when we’re asleep. The reason is that it takes too much energy to pump the cleaning fluid through the glymphatic system in order to clean out the brain while you’re awake.

This finding is still under the scrutiny of other scientists as there isn’t sufficient research to back up the claim. We’ll see if this takes off.