Restful sleep helps prevent migraine attacks

Classic advice for migraineurs: always try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Including weekends. Seven hours of sleep a night is a good figure to aim for. Why is it important?

Your busy brain is the answer. As your brain works, it produces waste products. Some of this waste may be harmful and needs to be cleared away. Harmful waste includes proteins that are faulty or no longer needed. Getting rid of them is vital to keep your brain healthy. Experts estimate that several grams of waste build up in our brain every day. Clearing that amount of waste is a major task. Our bodies manage with the help of a network of fine channels arranged around the blood vessels. The network contains a special liquid that mops up the waste, removes it from your brain and carries it to your bloodstream for further disposal.

Why does our brain need this garbage disposal system?

Brain cells are some of the most active cells in our bodies. At the same time, they are exceptionally sensitive to toxins and waste. Because the brain is unable to break down most of its waste products itself, it developed a very effective special procedure for rapid removal of these substances from the brain. The liver and kidneys do the rest.

Brain waste disposal mainly happens at night. If we get too little sleep, the brain’s waste management system cannot do its job right. The harmful substances keep building up and can cause headaches. So clearly, healthy sleep is essential for a smoothly functioning nervous system, be it for work or for play. This shows once again how special the brain is.

  • References
    • Iliff J et al. A paravascular pathway facilitates CSF flow through the brain parenchyma and the clearance of interstitial solutes, including amyloid β. Sci Transl Med. 2012 Aug 15; 4(147): 147ra111. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003748.
    • Jessen N et al. The Glymphatic System: A Beginner's Guide. Neurochem Res. 2015 Dec; 40(12): 2583–99. doi: 10.1007/s11064-015-1581-6. Epub 2015 May 7. Review.
    • Nedergaard M. et al. Nächtliche Gehirnwäsche. Spektrum der Wissenschaft 12/2016, Spektrum Verlag.
    • O'Donnell J et al. Distinct functional states of astrocytes during sleep and wakefulness: Is norepinephrine the master regulator? Curr Sleep Med Rep. 2015 Mar; 1(1): 1–8. Epub 2015 Jan 29.
    • Raper D et al. How Do Meningeal Lymphatic Vessels Drain the CNS? Trends Neurosci. 2016 Sep; 39(9): 581–586. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.07.001. Epub 2016 Jul 25. Review.
    • Simon M et al. Regulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow in neurodegenerative, neurovascular and neuroinflammatory disease. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Mar; 1862(3): 442–51. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2015.10.014. Epub 2015 Oct 22. Review.
    • Spektrum der Wissenschaft Dossier: Gehirn und Geist, Spektrum Verlag, Heidelberg, 2012.
    • Spektrum der Wissenschaft Kompakt: Schlafen und Träumen. Spektrum Verlag, Heidelberg, 2015.