Health News Review: The Power of Sleep

Here is another interesting health article from last week's news. This one deals with sleep and I was fascinated by some of the latest research on why we need sleep and what happens in the brain while we sleep.

I was particularly intrigued by the research of Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director at the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester, who asked the question: "Why do brains need sleep at all?" What she found was that the brain's glial cells that have largely been ignored and considered as mere support cell for neurons, actually become very active during sleep and are responsible for cleaning up the brain's "garbage".

The brain is a tremendous consumer of energy, but it's not blanketed in lymph vessels. So how does it get rid of trash? [Nedergaard] found that an army of previously ignored cells in the brain, called glial cells, turn into a massive pump when the body sleeps. During the day, glial cells are the unsung personal assistants of the brain. They cannot conduct electrical impulses like other neurons, but they support them as they send signals zipping along nerve networks... When daylight wanes and we eventually fall asleep, however, those glial cells kick into action...

Read more about this under the heading, "Garbagemen for your brain" in the full article linked here:

The Power of Sleep. New research shows a good night's rest isn't a luxury - it's critical for our brain and for your health

From the Sept 22, 2014 issue of Time