My brain feels sticky, I must need more sleep

by Janie Jones

I meant to write this yesterday, but I was taking a slug day.  I just visited with friends and Leif and the spud on the phone after school.  It was nice.  Sometimes we need some slug days.  Just like we apparently need our sleep or brain will get dirty and decompose.

A classmate gave her seminar talk yesterday on Alzheimer’s and sleep deprivation.  Apparently, our neurons in our brain produce a protein which hangs off the outside of the neural cells.  Throughout the day the body cleaves these proteins, and depending on where they get cleaved, if they have a long segment called beta-amyloid, these “cuttings” are very sticky and can clump up and cling to the neurons and fill the space between the neurons.  Normally, when we sleep, the body has a mechanism to clean away the clumpy bits and keep the brain “clean.”  However, when we don’t get enough sleep the brain can’t do a thorough cleaning and these sticky clumps can build up into plaques.  Eventually, if we go long enough without sleep, the plaques can start to block signals passing from neuron to neuron, and the immune system can start to attack our own neurons that are excessively covered in plaque causing neuron death.  Apparently, persons with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit a high amount of these beta-amyloid plaques in their brain, reduced brain cells, and exhibit altered sleep patterns suggesting that the two might be related.

Pretty interesting stuff.

Moral of the story, until we know for sure what the correlation might be, get as much sleep as you can, especially if your brain is starting to feel sticky.  Apparently, in mice studies, sleep-deprived mice brains exhibiting beta-amyloid plaques do have the ability to reverse the plaque build up when mice are allowed to sleep regularly again.

I’ll take that as a good excuse to sleep all weekend, how about you?

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