The glymphatic system has further added to the notion that sleep disorders and circadian disruption may cause (or speed up) age-related brain diseases such as dementia. The glymphatic system, which is most active during sleep, is a highly organized cerebrospinal fluid transport system. It transfers excess interspatial fluid and protein from the brain via the glymphatic pathway, clearing the brain of protein waste products. When you are in a deep asleep, cerebrospinal fluid in the glymphatic system delivers key supplies, rushing along next to the brain’s blood vessels, delivering key supplies and clearing away unwanted debris.
The glymphatic system is most active during sleep and more disengaged during waking hours, and does degrade with age. This alludes to a causal relationship between sleep disorders and progression in cognitive and intellectual deterioration. The need for sleep is crucial in order for the body to reenergize and eliminate potential waste products in the body. Recent studies have shown that the glymphatic function is suppressed in various diseases, and that failure of that function may contribute to neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injury and stroke.
As we know, aging in general typically leads to deterioration in the brain. Additionally, the quality of sleep decreases with age, therefore significantly decreasing the clearance of brain fluid and protein waste export. There is a particular depletion of slow wave activity as people age – so much so that many elderly don’t undergo much slow wave activity through the course of the night, even though they may be still sleeping six hours a night.
The authors of this article remind us of the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and this should be practiced throughout the duration of one’s lifetime, not just as an older adult.
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