While we're aware that sleep is important for retaining memories, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, a Danish biologist who "has been leading research into sleep function at the University of Rochesters medical school," argues that it "hardly seems enough to risk death-by-leopard-in-the-night. 'If sleep was just to remember what you did yesterday, that wouldnt be important enough,' Dr. Nedergaard explains."
Recall what happens to your body during exercise. You start off full of energy, but soon enough your breathing turns uneven, your muscles tire, and your stamina runs its course. Whats happening internally is that your body isnt able to deliver oxygen quickly enough to each muscle that needs it and instead creates needed energy anaerobically. And while that process allows you to keep on going, a side effect is the accumulation of toxic byproducts in your muscle cells. Those byproducts are cleared out by the bodys lymphatic system, allowing you to resume normal function without any permanent damage.
The lymphatic system serves as the bodys custodian: Whenever waste is formed, it sweeps it clean. The brain, however, is outside its reach despite the fact that your brain uses up about 20 percent of your bodys energy. How, then, does its waste like beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimers disease get cleared? What happens to all the wrappers and leftovers that litter the room after any mental workout?
Think about a fish tank, says Dr. Nedergaard. If you have a tank and no filter, the fish will eventually die. So, how do the brain cells get rid of their waste? Where is their filter?
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