Despite massive scientific advancement in the last 50 years into our understanding of what sleep is and what it does for the body, the answer to the simple question, “what is the purpose of sleep,” has been elusive. Is there a single purpose for why we sleep? While we still don’t know an exact answer, we do have a clear understanding that the processes of sleep actively facilitate restoration of the mind and physical self for next-day functioning. Groundbreaking recent research has shown an important role of the glymphatic system in restoring the brain during sleep.
New Research on Sleep and the Glymphatic System
Last year, a major paper was published in the journal Science describing how, during sleep, the brain’s glymphatic system removes waste products. Lead author, Lulu Xie, said:
“The restorative function of sleep may be a consequence of the enhanced removal of potentially neurotoxic waste products that accumulate in the awake brain.”
Recently, one of the paper authors, Jeff, Iliff, gave a fascinating TED presentation describing just how the brain’s glymphatic system goes about removing waste and discusses possible implications for these observations. The video is only 11 mins long but it’s packed with interesting information, and dare I saw pretty, visuals. Enjoy!