it’s the ultimate and essential “brainwash”
Groundbreaking research reveals that the human brain is detoxified during our sleep. On the other hand, toxins accumulate in the brain if we suffer from sleep disturbances, increasing our risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and numerous other conditions. If you are not helped by the most common guidelines for better sleep, supplementing with the “sleep hormone” melatonin may be an obvious solution that even offers plenty of positive “side effects.”
According to Maiken Nedergaard, a Danish professor in neurology, the human brain works very hard during the daytime in order to help us stay active and to process all the information that we get from our surroundings. Also, the brain is highly energy-consuming, and it is the enormous energy turnover that results in toxic by-products, including poisonous protein substances that are difficult to break down. When we are awake and active the brain is too busy to clean up the mess, so to speak, and that is why need to sleep.
Maiken Nedergaard with her team of scientists from University of Rochester in New York have demonstrated through studies of mice and color techniques that the brain has a microscopic system of lymphatic vessels, the glymphatic system, that pumps a special cleansing fluid in among the brain cells. This helps to flush out toxins from the brain, effectively washing them out through the lymphatic system to the liver where they are eventually broken down.
Before the glymphatic system was identified, nobody knew how the brain got rid of its waste products, and it was not known that we needed sleep to carry out this physical “brainwash”.
Lack of sleep accumulates toxins in the brain
According to Maiken Nedergaard, lack of sleep may cause toxic byproducts to accumulate in the brain and cause damage such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral stroke, and dementia. In 2015, Professor Nedergaard received the “Article of the Year” award from Science for writing an article about the study showing how the brain cleanses itself during sleep.
Besides our need for deep sleep, we need plenty of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep with dream activity that helps us remember, learn, and sort impressions – a process that can be compared with mental brainwash.
Sleep disturbances and lack of sleep may increase your risk of
- fatigue and impaired performance
- cravings for sugar and stimulants
- impaired insulin sensitivity and type-2 diabetes
- poor digestion
- reduced immune defense
- increased rate of ageing
- traffic accidents and other accidents
- cardiovascular disease and stroke
- depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia
Melatonin regulates your inner clock
If you find that the normal guidelines for improved sleep fail to help you, melatonin may work wonders by lending nature a helping hand. Melatonin is a completely natural substance that is found in plants, humans, and animals. In man, melatonin functions as a hormone or neurotransmitter (signaling substance) that controls our 24-hour rhythm, our sleep, and many physiological processes. Melatonin is primarily produced in the pineal gland at the center of the brain in response to nightfall. However, we also depend on bright daylight to stimulate the release of serotonin, which proceeds melatonin.
What reduces our natural melatonin production?
Both the size of the pineal gland and its melatonin production decrease as we grow older. This is believed to contribute to common sleep disorders and step up the rate of our ageing process. Lack of sunlight, grey weather, and nightshift work or absence of darkness may also impair out natural melatonin release, making it difficult for us to get a deep and healthy sleep. The same is the case with stimulants, medical drugs, and jetlag. Luckily, we can compensate for these shortcomings by taking supplements of melatonin.
Did you know that wearing sunglasses during the day, as well as exposing yourself to the massive amount of light from lamps, computers, TVs, and mobile phones can inhibit your melatonin production?
Melatonin is a safe substance
Although melatonin is manufactured in a laboratory it is a natural and bio-identical hormone that is completely the same as the melatonin produced by your own body. As a medical drug melatonin has a wide effect on insomnia and an array of sleep disorders.
Melatonin is a safe and thoroughly tested product. In Denmark, melatonin is available on prescription. However, it is legal to buy and import melatonin from other EU countries for your own personal use
Foods with melatonin
Melatonin is found naturally in cherries, oats, bananas, walnuts, corn, ginger, and peanuts. The melatonin quantities, however, are very limited compared with the optimal amounts produced in the body. Also, they are too limited to extract them for commercial use.
Melatonin versus sleeping pills
Around 40% of adults are regular users of sleeping medication such as benzodiazepine that make you drowsy by sedating the body and impairing the physical and mental brain wash. Sleeping drugs and hypnotics (such as zolpidem) are habit-forming and linked to serious side effects and should only be used as emergency solutions for limited periods of time.
In contrast, melatonin corrects the body’s 24-hour rhythm and natural sleep pattern. Melatonin is not habit-forming, and there are no side effects even after long-term use of the substance (at correct doses).
Melatonin has several positive effects during our sleep
Although melatonin is primarily known as a sleep hormone, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The numerous secondary effects of the substance have a positive influence on anti-ageing, mood, immune defense, hormone balance, circulation, metabolism, and even protects us against cancer and a variety of chronic ailments.
Most chronic ailments are caused by some aggressive molecules known as free radicals. Melatonin is a unique and very powerful antioxidant that protects cells against oxidative stress and repairs cellular damage during our sleep.
Most people need around eight hours of sleep per day. Some need more, while others are fine with less. What is important is that you feel fresh and rested throughout the day.
Lack of sleep harms your health and performance
There is a lot of focus on smoking, drinking habits, and exercise when the discussion is about general health. However, there is increasing evidence that poor sleeping habits and sleep disturbances are just as great a risk factor in terms of increasing the odds for chronic illness and premature death. This is simply a result of the brain not getting the chance to cleanse itself properly by washing out all the waste.
Underwood Emily. Sleep: The ultimate Brainwasher? Science/AAAS/News 2013
Walter Pierpaoli, William Regelson, Carol Colman: The Melatonin Miracle
Anna Gry Vinther, Mogens Helweg Claësson: Melatonins indvirkning på immunsystem og cancer. Ugeskrift for Læger 2015