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Your glymphatic system and sleep

The glymphatic system is a recently new discovery of the brain’s waste clearance system. The brain utilizes a unique system of tunnels and cells to promote efficient elimination of waste products, such as soluble proteins and metabolites from your central nervous system. Besides this waste elimination system, the glymphatic system also helps distribution of compounds, including glucose, lipids, amino acids, growth factors and neuromodulators.

The interesting thing about this system is that research has discovered that the glymphatic system functions mainly during sleep.  It is mostly disengaged during waking. Once again, pointing us in the direction of how important sleep is. 

The biological need for sleep is seen across all species. The theory suggests that this may reflect that the brain must enter a state of activity that enables elimination of potentially neurotoxic waste products.  Thus, the idea is that if one is not getting good sleep, then the brain is unable to successfully eliminate all waste products.

Interestingly in recent studies they have found that the glymphatic system is suppressed in various diseases and that the failure of the glymphatic function might contribute to neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injury and stroke.

What they have found is that the glymphatic system is most active during the specific stage of deep sleep that happens very early in the sleep cycle. The glymphatic system requires a great deal of blood flow, just like your digestive system. This is why they suggest not eating right before going to bed. If you eat too soon before sleep, all the blood flow will aid in digestion and will not be able to reach your brain to complete your brains waste clearance.

If your glymphatic system is unable to ‘wash’ out your brain effectively, you will end up with a buildup of toxins. The suggested solution is to make sure you have a gap of time between your last meal and when you go to sleep.  The suggested minimum time between finishing your last meal and sleep should be four hours.