Sleep Does Knit The Raveled Sleeve of Care


If you live to be 90 you will have slept about 30 years of it. Was it a waste of time? Why would we evolve this way if it were totally unproductive?


But fear not. You are not squandering 1/3 of your life. Au contraire.


According to new evidence, sleep is actually ensuring that the other 2/3 of your life is optimized. And you know at menopause how difficult sleeping can be. We’ve known for a while that sleep is essential for remembering what happened today and deciding what we remember, what we forget and integrating it into what we already know (Nature Neuroscience 16,139–145; 2013). Sleep also removes toxic byproducts created by wakefulness and restores substrates we need to process memories and information. In fact, sleep may be the “how” in how our brain learns to change as a result of experiences – a process called neuroplasticity.


Danish scientist Maiken Nedergaard, now at the University of Rochester Medical School recently explained how sleep is when your brain cleans up its act, restores itself and removes toxic waste from its environment.


Your brain uses about 20% of your body’s energy. As writer Maria Konnikova states in the NY Times, waste like beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other “wrappers and leftovers that litter the room after any mental workout” need sleep to do the necessary custodial work.


What happens during sleep is that the spaces between the brain cells widen and cerebrospinal fluid, the liquid surrounding the brain’s cells, floods into these widened spaces during sleep and flushes away the debris.


On average we’re getting about 1 – 2 hours less sleep than we were 50 – 100 years ago and 38 minutes less on weeknights than we did 10 years ago according to an June 26, 2013 article in Nature. Being so busy you have “no time for sleep” could result in you having more years of getting nothing done while you’re awake.


So if you really want to get a lot done and not waste time, go to sleep. As Shakespeare said in Macbeth, “It knits up the raveled sleeve of care.”


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