Just like Dorothy who had the power all along, you also hold the key to a better life.
While you may not have a pair of ruby slippers to tap three times, you do have one superpower which can lead you to optimal brain health. Sleep!
While we are awake, the brain uses immense amounts of energy as its neuronal networks constantly reshape themselves and transmit signals while we go about our lives.
This makes cells tired so they need regular refuelling, an activity which floods the brain with a never-ending flow of oxidative free radicals and protein debris – both of which are harmful.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells and are linked to aging and a host of diseases. While protein debris can build-up, causing clumps that are toxic to the brain.
In order to prevent an influx of these metabolic waste products, the simple act of sleep gives your brain a deep clean each night – the equivalent of getting out the Marigolds and giving it a scrub.
Speaking about the importance of sleep, Lee Euler, author of Awakening from Alzheimer’s, explains that unless you get enough of it every night, the brain can get clogged with these clumps of toxic by-products that can wreak havoc on memory and intellectual abilities.
Dr Ravi Allada, a researcher who chairs the department of neurobiology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in Chicago, supports this theory, saying: “Waste clearance could be important for maintaining brain health or for preventing neurogenerative disease.”
To help his ‘waste clearance’ discoveries, Dr Allada and his colleagues perform experiments on fruit flies who have a surprisingly similar sleep pattern to humans.
Their investigations show that sleep “facilitates waste clearance and aids in brain injury recovery,” which Euler believes is one reason that doctors regularly put severely injured people into a medically-induced coma to help their bodies heal more quickly.
Incredibly, fellow researchers have shown that just about every living thing requires sleep to clean and rejuvenate their bodies – even jellyfish.
Studies have shown that the sea creatures need zzzzs too, with researchers at the California Institute of Technology proving that if their sleep is interrupted, they act groggy the next day.
As well as flushing out toxins and supporting better memory, getting forty-winks is known to help decrease feelings of loneliness and anxiety too.
So, while saying how few hours of sleep you can survive on used to be a badge of honour, binging Netflix until the early hours or having an ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ mantra might not be so great for your brain health after all.