From the Centre: Getting enough sleep should be your resolution for 2014

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Wow. 2014. Who thought we would make it this far? Hopefully you had a restful holiday season and a chance to spend time with family (although the stories are starting to surface indicating families and restful might not always be applicable in the same sentence). Perhaps post-holiday, you can work on the restful aspect if you didn’t get the chance during.

In a somewhat related angle, I just read an article that said the New England Journal of Medicine indicated that brain condition-related deaths are skyrocketing, and between 1979 and 2010, men are up 66 per cent and women 92 per cent. Not great news, especially since studies find that 54 per cent of these could have been avoided. The thinking is that in the future this number will continue to rise, so ultimately, prevention is the key.

So, what if you could hire a crew of custodians to keep your brain in good condition? Guess what? You already do have a crew, but they may not be getting a chance to do their job. One of the key factors in those custodians doing their job is simple: sleep. The University of Rochester Medical Center for Translational Neuromedicine released a study showing slumber gives your brain a chance to clear out potentially harmful waste that builds up while you’re awake. This waste includes amyloid beta, a driver of Alzheimer’s.

Essentially, while you sleep your brain takes out the trash, so by cutting back or not having good siestas, we are not providing the time for proper cleaning. This process has been named the glymphatic system, which is basically a plumbing system in your brain that opens up when you sleep, allowing toxins to be flushed out via your cerebrospinal fluid. It is 10 times more active when you are sleeping than when you are awake and your brain actually physically changes while you sleep, which allows for the increased flow. While theory on this has been around a decade or two, it was only recently that technology became available for scientists to be able to map it out. Exciting stuff!

Of note:

•Lack of sleep seems to play a role in dementia and other brain disorders;

•Cellular waste is flushed out of your brain cells and into your circulatory system and then to the liver;

•Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped through your brain tissue to remove the waste. When you sleep, your brain cells shrink 60 per cent. This allows the fluid to move faster and more freely; and

•The pumping of this fluid takes a lot of energy, which doesn’t seem to be available when you are awake and engaging actively with your environment.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, puts it this way, “You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain your guests, or you can clean the house. But, you can’t really do both at the same time.” The researcher point out that nearly all degenerative brain diseases are linked to the accumulation of cellular waste products. Most studies indicate that if you add up all your minutes of sleep for the year and divide by 365, the number should be between seven and nine hours of sleep. So if you haven’t been reaching that number, or whatever number is right for you, make getting the proper amount of sleep your first new year’s resolution toward a healthier lifestyle. Once you land that one, everything else should be a bit clearer.

From all the staff at the Creston and District Community Complex: May your 2014 be the best year yet!

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.