From early scientists to today’s advanced modern technology, our understanding of the significance of sleep has changed drastically over the years.
But just how important is the act of getting a good night’s sleep? Neuroscientist Jeff Iliff explains how new research in the field of neuroscience is bringing us closer to a comprehensive understanding of how our brains function, and specifically the role the sleep plays in keeping our brains healthy and functioning well.
The key, Iliff says, is waste disposal – as every cell consumes nutrients for fuel, every cell also produces waste. Each organ handles the disposal of waste differently, from the lymphatic system to the bowels. But how the brain handles waste disposal has until now been something of a mystery to doctors and scientists – a mystery that Iliff thinks he can explain, and it all comes down to the importance of sleep.
Recent studies have shown that not only are sleep and circadian rhythm problems common in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but worsening sleep quality is directly associated with amyloid deposition in the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s.
Ilif explains that while this doesn’t necessarily mean that poor sleep causes Alzheimer’s disease, it can help us better understand the way Alzheimer’s develops and what preventative measures we may be able to take.
“In your house, if you stop cleaning for a month, your home will become completely unlivable very quickly,” Ilif explains. “But in the brain, the consequences of falling behind may be much greater than the embarrassment of dirty counter tops.”