Here at Amé, we focus a lot on sleep. We’re thrilled that the language around sleep in the wellness world has really picked up steam, because with all of life’s stressors, distractions, and stimuli, it is getting increasingly more difficult to put ourselves to bed and clock some serious z’s. However, our longevity and overall health depends on it in a major way.
We know that consistent, quality rest has a major impact on the way we look and feel. Good sleep can help us shed excess lbs, clear up our skin, improve skin elasticity, strengthen our immune system, reduce inflammation, improve digestion, heal wounds, and boost both our mood and glow. But we also use restorative rest for extremely important work up in the ol’ noggin.
Our brains essentially do a total clean sweep while we are racking up REM (Rapid Eye Movement), which occurs in the part of our cycle when we are achieving deep, restorative sleep. The waste system in the brain is known as the glymphatic system —and no, that’s not a funny rhyme, it is indeed a part of our complex lymphatic system.
When we sleep, this system clears out soluble proteins and metabolites (metabolites are the end result of metabolism — essentially, tiny waste particles after our body has used input for energy) from the brain. This is vital work, because these particles, both microscopic and macroscopic, can create build-up known as plaque. That’s right. Quality, restorative sleep is like brushing your teeth, but for the brain.
The glymphatic system mainly functions while we sleep, and deactivates when we wake. This is because our brain activity when sleeping is the right wavelength to enable potentially neurotoxic waste, including but not limited to the aforementioned plaque build-up of proteins, like amyloid-β (Aβ) and phosphorylated tau.
The reason this plaque is so toxic is that it can build up in between neurons, preventing electrical pulses from communicating. ICYMI, neurons sending electrical pulses to one another is ultimately what makes us think, act, and function in the world. When neurons become blocked, we can become forgetful, stagnant, lose track of time and our sense of self, and eventually, our bodies begin to shut down. That’s right — these electric communications even control our involuntary systems, like cardiovascular and respiratory functions.
While this might not have an immediate impact on us (after all, we tend to think we are invincible when we are younger), the real results from years of poor sleep will manifest as we age, just like sun damage does to our skin. We will start to have issues with memory, learning new tasks or skills, language conflicts, and in the worst cases, this protein build-up can cause major cognitive decline, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
So when we think of wellness, of course diet and exercise are vital to feeling, well, vital. But if you haven’t worked out yet and the end of the day is nearing, consider skipping it and trading it in for quality rest rather than staying up later to squeeze it in. Prioritize creating a calming, restful environment, turning off screens and any blue light, and getting yourself relaxed for an evening of quality rest. Your entire well-being — and your body’s control center — depend on it.