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The benefits of sleep – emerging evidence: Part I

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Public Health Problem.

One of the increasing areas of interest for therapists and doctors alike is the evidence for the ‘benefits of sleep’. Not only does sleep appear important for our mental well-being but also our physical health. In the USA the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’ has actually declared insufficient sleep a ‘public health problem’. Apart from impairing health and wellbeing, current evidence suggests that sleep plays a crucial role in determining cognitive performance and productivity at work. Not getting enough shut-eye has been linked to more road accidents, industrial incidents and medical errors.

Benefits of sleep

A recent article highlighted the benefits of sleep the following is summary of those benefits:

Removal of toxins

The evidence is mounting that sleep has a the restorative function with enhanced removal of potentially neurotoxic waste. These products accumulate during the day within the central nervous system. During our sleep the space between brain cells widens due to the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. This effectively washes out the toxins. β-amyloid protein is the most abundant waste product removed (which is linked to plaques in Alzheimer’s disease). A pretty good reason to get some decent shut-eye!

Improves memory

It appears one of the most important functions of sleep is to help to consolidate long-term memory. Our brains make numerous connections during the day, however it tends to stream line these back at night. Keeping only the important ones or those deemed relevant for long term memory. Slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep support synaptic consolidation. Sleep therefore helps us to remember what we have learnt during the day.

Helps us to think straight

As mentioned sleep is crucial in cognitive performance.  It appears that the creative, divergent and innovative aspects of thought are most affected by lack of sleep. Planning and organisation less so. However this may also depend on the amount of sleep deprivation.

If you have found this blog interesting – look out for our follow up articles on sleep.

See also:

See also:

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