Keep Your Glymphatic System Happy and Healthy with Better Sleep
You may not have heard of the glymphatic system, but it’s essential to your health and survival. It’s success relies on sleep. If you’re getting less than the recommended seven hours, your glymphatic system can’t do what it does best—clean the brain.
The Glymphatic System Takes the Night Shift
The glymphatic system spans throughout your entire brain like a series of “pipes” through which the brain flushes out unwanted toxins. These pipes are full of fluid that’s always moving. The pipes of the glymphatic system can expand to increase the flow of fluid, but only while you sleep. When you’re catching your ZZZ’s, the amount of fluid and fluid movement goes up by nearly 90 percent.
When all that fluid is flowing, toxins like metabolites, amino acids, and proteins are flushed out. For example, the brain makes and contains 25 percent of the body’s total cholesterol. However, at times, it has an excess that needs to be removed. Once the brain is in a sleep state, the extra cholesterol is removed to maintain a healthy balance.
As we age, the glymphatic system slows down, leaving behind unwanted toxins that both slow the brain’s ability to cleanse itself and the rate at which it sends signals. Further research indicates that poor functioning of the glymphatic system may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Consequently, adequate sleep becomes even more important with age to give the brain as much time as possible to stay clean and clear.
Clean Your Mind with Better Sleep
To keep your brain and the rest of your body healthy, you have to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night. With stress levels at an all-time high and continuing to grow, that’s not always easy. However, there are things you can do to help yourself fall and stay asleep.
Set the Scene
Cool, dark, and quiet are the words to live by. Try to keep the bedroom at 60 to 68 degrees, where most people sleep comfortably. Light, which controls the circadian rhythms, can suppress sleep hormones. Try to make the bedroom as dark as possible. Two layers of curtains, heavy drapes, blackout curtains, and blinds are all fairly simple solutions. And finally, block out noise that can startle you out of the light stages of sleep. If you’re a sensitive sleeper, a white noise machine can mask sound.
Be Consistent and Methodical
Your body craves consistency and routine to correctly time all of your biological functions, including sleep. Set a regular bedtime and make it a priority. Be methodical about the 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine that takes you from alert and awake to relaxed and sleepy. Try to perform each activity in the routine at the same time and in the same order to help signal your brain to start the release of sleep hormones.
Dim the Lights and Turn Off Electronics
As your bedtime draws near, dim the lights and turn off any and all electronics, including televisions, laptops, and smartphones. Light, but in particular blue spectrum light like that of electronic devices, suppresses sleep hormones. Your brain needs at least two to three hours of lowered exposure to keep the sleep cycle on track.
You need sleep for almost all of your body’s major organs and systems, you might as well add brain health to the list. Be consistent and make it a priority. It’s worth it for the energy, mental clarity, and emotional stability that come along with it.
Guest post by Samantha Kent who is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.