If you’ve ever felt a burning sensation in your muscles during a vigorous workout or physical labor, you know what lactic acid feel like. Lactic acid is how the body tells you it’s time to take a break before you cause some damage. The smart move at that point is to take a break and allow your lymphatic system to clear out the toxins.
New research summarized in the New York Times recently suggests that your brain cells need the same kind of opportunity to clear out all the waste they generate in the course of a day of thinking. The research shows that 20 percent of a brain’s total volume is dedicated to channels that remove the toxins that accumulate over the course of thinking all day. The primary time those channels have a chance to work is when you’re sleeping.
The occasional all-nighter isn’t going to do much damage over the long run, but sustained nights with less than seven to nine hours of sound sleep can have some serious short term and, the research suggests, long term effects.
In the short run, you’re not going to think as clearly and your decision-making suffers. In the long run, the toxins that build up in your brain are the same ones that lead to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
You can’t be very mindful when your brain is exhausted. If you’re getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep most nights, why not make a move in the right direction by adding 30 minutes on average this coming week and see what difference it makes? Learn more about how to do it from the National Sleep Foundation.
How much sleep do you get most nights? What’s helping or hurting your average? What difference is it making to you?