DR. DONALD JOHNSON: Sleep should clean the brain

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Almost everybody has had nights when they do not sleep good and wake up feeling unrefreshed. During sleep, a person should go through four sleep stages, including light, deep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Some people divide stage 3 into stage 3 and stage 4 and say that there are five stages of sleep but stage 3 is just a very short transition into stage 4. We will use four stages in this discussion. REM sleep is where we always dream. In an ideal night’s sleep, a sleep cycle will take around 90 minutes. And adults should go through four to five of these 90-minute cycles of sleep every night.

But, if one wakes up in the middle of a 90-minute sleep cycle, the person’s sleep cycle resets itself to stage 1 from whichever stage of sleep the person was in. So, a person may never get to REM which is the only time the body’s immune system gets repair. This reset can occur multiple times each hour of the night — sometimes every minute. Can you imagine how exhausted you would be if someone came into your bedroom and woke you up every five minutes!

Deep sleep (stage 4) and REM (stage 4) are very important. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) study suggested that sleep has an important role in cleaning the brain. Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. led the study about what happens in and to the brain during the stages of sleep. The results of this study on the brains of mice showed that the space on the interior of the brains (the fluid space) increased by 60 percent during sleep. This, or course, means that the cells of the brain reduced in size by that same percentage. This additional space allowed cerebral spinal fluid and blood flow throughout the brain to remove plaque buildup in the brain that occurs during each day. That is why a person needs to be in REM sleep for two hours every night.

This suggests that during sleep, the brain is cleared of molecules which are associated with neurodegeneration (damage to the brain). This was not a study in humans, but it suggests that the less deep and REM sleep a person gets each night, the less cleaning the brain gets. The NIH release stated that “A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind.” Dementia/Alzheimer’s may result.

We also know that certain chemicals necessary for our well being are manufactured during sleep. Serotonin is one of those and it is necessary to keep one from being depressed. And the only way to find out about your sleep patterns is to have a sleep study done, either in a hospital sleep lab or in your own home.

If you have any questions about your sleep, your snoring, your partner’s snoring, your fatigue, or your daytime tiredness, come in for a consultation to discuss it with us. There is no charge and it just may be a time that you will find out how to feel refreshed every morning! Even if you are on “CPAP,” you may be having disturbances in your sleep cycle due to arousals. If your CPAP is working for you, you should be able to use it ALL night, EVERY night and wake up refreshed. If this is not the case, come in and see the alternative.

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Dr. Donald Johnson founded Northwest Treatment Center for Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their snoring and live free with no limits! Obstructive sleep apnea is usually able to be treated with a small oral appliance. Dr. Johnson’s office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.NWSleepDoc.com and the office phone is 208-667-4551. Schedule a free consultation appointment today!

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