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How Your Sleep Position Can Impact Your Brain’s Waste Removal

How Your Sleep Position Can Impact Your Brain’s Waste Removal

If you aren’t sleeping in the right position, you could be increasing your odds of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders later in life.

This shocking conclusion was the result of a study performed by researchers at Stony Brook University when studying the effects of sleeping positions on the removal of brain waste.

Before understanding how the research was conducted and what the findings can mean for your health, it’s first important to understand what brain waste is and how improper removal can negatively impact your health.

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Brain Waste and the Devastating Role It Can Play

With the amount of work that your brain performs on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that there will be an excess of waste that requires removal. While our brains don’t have the luxuries of custodians and garbage collectors, they do have their own mechanism for cleaning, and that’s the glymphatic system.

An extensive and organized system of pipes that works to clear brain waste just as the lympathic system clears waste in the rest of the body, this system for waste removal was unknown until 2012 when a group of researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center made the discovery.

Simply put, brain waste is a combination of amyloids and tau proteins that have overstayed their welcome. The buildup of these improperly functioning proteins has been linked to Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders and can have truly devastating effects.

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The glymphatic system, which functions at all times during the day but which is most active during sleep, is what makes the removal of these proteins possible. Without this system in place, the non-soluble proteins would continue to buildup, leading to a plaque formation within our brain’s cells and wreaking havoc on our nervous system.

How the Research was Conducted

With the use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and contrast dye, the researchers were able to locate the glympathic system and track the movement of its waste-clearing substance in the brains of anesthetized mice.

The mice were then manipulated into lying in one of three different positions — lateral (side), supine (on the back), and prone (on the stomach).

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Researchers tracked the rates of waste removal based on these three positions, and the lateral position during sleep had an overwhelming advantage.

What this Discovery Means for You and How You Sleep

While this experiment was performed on mice and has yet to be done on human subjects, there are still some things that we can learn from the study’s conclusion.

The benefits of these findings were best explained by Dr. Nedergaard, a researcher from the University of Rochester and co-author of the study:

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“Many types of dementia are linked to sleep disturbances, including difficulties in falling asleep. It is increasing[ly] 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.”

While there is still much research to be done, the conclusion of this study is clear:

“The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the [side] position when compared to the [back] or [stomach] positions,” said Dr. Benveniste.

The Future of Sleep and Brain Studies

While this new study may not be enough to convince diehard back and stomach sleepers to change their sleep positions, it does lead to future research questions and gives hope to those with a history of Alzheimer’s and similar disorders in their family.

The mysteries of the brain and nervous system are only now beginning to be solved — what this study and similar studies does is prove that each day we are one step closer to a fuller understanding of the human brain and how this knowledge can be used to fight the crippling and fatal effects of neurological diseases.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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