Almost every day we hear the results of a new scientific study. These studies are conducted in the fields of medicine, social interaction, engineering, space or the environment. I have often wondered if there is a grant available for a scientific study to determine how many scientific studies are conducted every year.
Most of the time I give these results a cursory glance to see if they might affect my lifestyle, but usually they come with a disclaimer at the end that gives them an out should they be proven wrong.
Recently, however, I came across a study done by the University of Rochester Medical Center that concludes that it is important to get lots of sleep, as the resting hours give the brain a chance to sweep up and take out the trash.
It appears that the brain flushed out waste products much more efficiently during sleep than during periods of wakefulness. Some of the brain trash included proteins thought to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers had another startling find about this waste. The reason it gets flushed so easily during sleep is that certain brain cells shrink in size, creating 50 per cent more space between them for the liquid waste to move through.
“During the daytime, only five per cent of this fluid can move out of there; the whole system is clogged, like a Manhattan traffic jam,” said Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was not involved in the study.
The brain acts like a smart sanitation engineer: it’s easier to move the trash at night when the streets are clear.
Well this certainly explains a lot. When I was working for the fire department, my sleep was constantly interrupted by pagers or telephones and the cleaners never had a chance to get their work done. Consequently, my mind was on overload, with information jammed in hallways and closets like a hoarder. I was constantly looking all over the place to retrieve information.
But now that I get seven or eight hours of sleep every night. The whole crew goes in there and vacuums and polishes my brain so I wake up with lots of room and little confusion. That is until the phone starts to ring.
“Jim, we are waiting for you, we had a 10 a.m. meeting.”
In the past, I would apologize profusely and hurry to make the meeting. Now, I can just say, “Well you know, the cleaners were in last night and it looks like they wiped that meeting right off the board so we’ll have to re-schedule.”
Not my fault.
Some days I will admit that when I wake up I draw a total blank. It appears that not only did they do a clean sweep, they were in between the creases with a leaf blower and a pressure washer because there is nothing there.
Whether the results of this study can be used with creditors or in the courts has yet to be determined.
“Your Honour, I missed my bail hearing because my brain was being cleaned and unfortunately they thought the date was useless information and threw it out.”
Alas, the disclaimer at the end says the study has only been conducted on mice and baboons. But I think we all know people who appear to have had their brains washed on a nightly basis. At least that’s what McGregor says.