Each day you wake up, swing your feet over the bed and take that first yawn of the morning and you are creating garbage. Yes, garbage and it will go on for the entire day whether or not you like it. And, there’s no way to empty this personal wastepaper basket you carry around until you go to bed and to sleep at night.
But how do you do it? The solution is simple; it’s how you position your head. Researchers are scratching their heads since discovering this amazing sleep activity related to head positioning.
First, a quick look at what happens to your brain as we sleep. We now know that there is an incredible connection in the brain that allows it to have access to a “waterway” where debris can be offloaded onto a portion of the lymphatic system.
Okay, you don’t have to know about biology, so let me say that the lymphatic system is that portion of our body’s “open” system where the white blood cells dump all the dangerous and unnecessary bits in our body. It is our protective drainpipe for the brain and for the body and everything goes through it.
Ever since anatomists have been working on the body and making new discoveries, they missed the glymphatic system which is the connection between the brain and the lymphatic system. It was hidden in plain sight and they never saw it. Now that they’ve discovered it and given it a name, they have found what it’s use is incredible and adds to the importance of sleep.
Our Very Own Brain Rosehip
Along with this discovery, they found yet a new brain cell they hadn’t known about before; the Rosehip cell (neuron). The name comes from a combination of its shape, similar to what remains after a rose flower dies and leaves that bulb at the top of the stem, and a brain cell, the glial cell. Rosehips, as anyone into natural medicine knows, is a great source of Vitamin C and often used to make tea and to help with a variety of medical symptoms. They’re not sure what the rosehip cell is used for, but it’s there and waiting for new discoveries.
Back to brain cleaning and how you sleep and align your body now. As I wrote in my book, Sleep, Insomnia, Stress, 3D brain scans have shown that the brain decreases in size “about 12 to 18%… And the researchers theorize that this is more evidence for brain cleaning and rejuvenation activity during sleep. How could the brain reduce in size during sleep and then returned to its normal size when we wake up? We still need more information here.
“The main point is that the brain is performing sleep-related functions to assist in daytime activity. Not all synapses seem to be involved in his sleep shrinkage task and larger, stronger ones may be left untouched in order to preserve memory. The mystery of which ones engage in size change and which do not has not been solved at this point but we will know in a not-to-distant future.”
The Side You Sleep On
Researchers, looking at the brain, using MRI imagining, examined that new lymphatic pathway to see if sleeping position might be more effective in removing garbage from the brain. They also noted that humans and animals prefer sleeping on one side; the left side. They propose that this position may prevent the buildup of brain waste which can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease or other neurologic disorders.
What did they find? In their paper, they note that, working with rodents, the left side was more beneficial in brain clearing and this was validated with f fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracers. Yes, large words, but necessary.
Interestingly enough, even in wild animals there is a preferred left side, but this has been thought to be a means of protecting themselves should they have to get up rapidly, especially. In human beings, who might need to grab a weapon, the left side would be the better side for the right-handed. But now we know that sleeping on the left side facilitates that lymphatic pathway which removes brain waste and increases brain health and overall next-day functioning.
One of the lead researchers in this sleep position study, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard of Stony Brook University, noted that “The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep subserves a distinct biological function of sleep and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake.
“Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep. It is increasing acknowledged that these sleep disturbances may accelerate memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Our finding brings new insight into this topic by showing it is also important what position you sleep in.”