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Optimum Sleep Position for Brain Health!

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Optimum Sleep Position for Brain Health!
Optimum Sleep Position for Brain Health! - Photo by Alex Kholopov

Key with sleep is to maximize our remarkable capacity to clear toxic brain waste that actually builds up during the day. The brain’s glymphatic pathway…complex system that clears waste and chemical solutes from the brain, is not that effective during waking hours. The functionality of the glymphatic system literally accelerates by an order of up to some 20 times or so during proper sleep! This is the prime reason that a basic amount of sleep is literally required to enable this ‘job’ to be satisfactorily done! Seems seven hours is the lower threshold. The result, according to researchers at Stony Brook University, and published in the Journal of Neuroscience some time back on August 4th. 2015… is a quantum leap to help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases. But remarkably, through use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain’s glymphatic pathway, the researchers, that included Hedok Lee, PhD, and Helene Benveniste, MD, PhD, found that a lateral sleeping position additionally enhances this process. In humans and many animals the lateral position is most common and this could well be attributed to an inherited trait with just this purpose in mind! As so often…we have built in protections that we just have to realize! Optimum Sleep Position for Brain Health!

The MRI rodent research enabled identification and definition of the glymphatic pathway, where cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filters through the brain and exchanges with interstitial fluid (ISF) to clear waste. Similar to the way the body’s lymphatic system clears waste from organs. It is during sleep that the glymphatic pathway is most efficient. Brain waste includes amyloid β (amyloid) and tau proteins, chemicals that negatively affect brain processes if they build up. Personally like this analogy of the glymphatic system in the brain to the lymphatic system in the body! Optimum Sleep Position for Brain Health!

This blog always reverts to evolutionary concepts….and an analogous example of overriding interests of survival, is the disruption of sleep when travelling, and continually moving from hotel to hotel!!..“night watch brain” kicks in…cerebral MRI once again has demonstrated that humans, along with some other species such as dolphins, other animals and birds, rest one half of the brain than the other in an unfamiliar setting! This adaptation would have been advantageous to our ancestors, at risk of predation in the wild, and this sleep type alert would have had a survival quality!

The research results were an analysis of three positions: lateral (side), prone (down), and supine (upwards)…the side positions won out…on this point I recall somewhere, to my surprise, that lying to the right side may be marginally better than the left…personally felt that the anatomy may favor the left!! However, generally speaking would wager that any results of similar MRI tests on humans would produce the similar results! Significant is that cerebrolspinal fluid (CSF) flooding only occurs during unconsciousness because that’s when the fluid-filled spaces around the brain cells, called interstitial spaces, expand in size by up to 60 percent, to allow this ‘washing’ process to take place. In fact, the brains of the animals in the lateral position cleaned out 77 percent and 66 percent better than those in the prone and supine positions. What’s more, the mice lying in the prone and supine positions retained 58 percent and 62 percent of the ‘sludge’ in their brains. These numbers are really significant…and it is all for want of just a tweak!! Optimum Sleep Position for Brain Health!