There is a “Catch-22” when it comes to sleep and toxicity. Recent research published by the National Institute of Health confirms that poor sleep can lead to increased toxicity of the brain which then leads to ever more declining sleep which leads to further developed toxicity, and so and so forth in a vicious, self-affirming cycle.
Your Brain On Sleep
A 2014 NIH-funded study suggests sleep clears the brain of damaging toxins associated with neurodegeneration. A good night’s rest may literally clear your mind of dangerous neurotoxins. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells increased during sleep, the movement allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. So your brain cells literally spread apart when you’re sleeping, allowing toxins to be flushed out. These results suggest a new role between neurotoxicity accumulation and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, Multiple Sclerosis and Cognitive Decline/Dementia.
Previous studies have suggested that toxic molecules (beta-amyloid plaques) involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells.
Beta-amyloid disappears faster in subjects’ brains when asleep, suggesting sleep normally clears toxic molecules from the brain.
It is common knowledge that we live in a “dirty” world. Dangerous chemicals, toxic substances, and mold exposure are everywhere these days. On a daily basis, we are exposed to over 6,000 chemicals that we can’t see or smell. Our food is laced with glyphosate (RoundUp), a virulent chemical that causes leaky gut.
Heavy metal exposure and toxicity, particularly from cadmium, copper, mercury, and nickel, have been shown to have a double-edged effect on sleep. On one hand, these heavy metals disrupt energy production, making you more tired. On the other hand, they make it more difficult to fall asleep or have a truly restful sleep.
Furthermore, studies have found that people in the top quarter of NO2 exposure (a type of traffic-related air pollution) were 60 percent more likely to have low sleep efficiency over a five-year period. Among people exposed to the highest levels of fine-particle pollution, there was a 50 percent increased likelihood of low sleep efficiency. High air pollution levels may also lead to acute sleep effects after short-term exposures.
Many foods also contain antibiotics, preservatives, colors, and additives. Our meats are placed on Styrofoam plates with plastic wrap clinging to them, and of course, there is toxic paint, carpet outgassing, EMFs, air fresheners, toxic mold… the list of dangerous chemical and toxic substances goes on and on. In other words, our toxic exposure is enormous.
This isn’t meant to scare you… well, except maybe into getting more sleep.
Pharmaceutical toxicity and sleep
When you are sleep deprived, blood vessels in the brain degrade, compromising the blood-brain barrier and allowing more toxins into the brain tissue. Medications, particularly antidepressants and antibiotics, increase blood-brain permeability, allowing in more toxins.
These drugs are designed to increase their exposure to brain tissue so they can do what they were meant to do. It’s an unfortunate side effect that when you take them, you are giving the myriad other toxins in your environment a better shot at getting into your brain and causing (among other things) sleep disruptions.
The first defense against toxins is to avoid them wherever you can. It requires constant vigilance. Start with your food. Eat only organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and wild-caught fish.
Then move on to your household. Be sure to use non-toxic cleaning products and beauty products. Then look into non-toxic furniture, carpet, clothing, toys, etc. It is a lifelong process.
But obviously there is no avoiding the many toxins that exist in our shared environments. That’s why regular detox protocols–monthly, quarterly, yearly should be observed. This includes fasting, saunas, things like coffee enemas or liver flushes. It’s a world that requires a lot of research and knowledge. Luckily, this website contains most of what you’d ever need to know on the subject if you prefer to be your own researcher.
Beyond that, there are detox specialists in nearly every community. If you can’t find one, or you’d prefer I consult with you, feel free to use the Contact form here on the site and I’ll be happy to get in touch.