Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Way to Add Years to Your Life


Most people spend a third of their lives sleeping. Doing without sleep does not seem to work well, in terms of achieving optimal focus and concentration. The brain seems to need that "down time" for some reason. This may be the reason:
Levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, in rats increased in four key brain regions normally active during wakefulness. Shown here is the energy surge measured in the frontal cortex, a brain region associated with higher-level thinking. Credit: Courtesy, with permission: Dworak et al. The Journal of Neuroscience 2010.

In the initial stages of sleep, energy levels increase dramatically in brain regions found to be active during waking hours, according to new research in the June 30 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. These results suggest that a surge of cellular energy may replenish brain processes needed to function normally while awake.

The authors measured levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, in rats. They found that ATP levels in four key brain regions normally active during wakefulness increased when the rats were in non-REM sleep, but were accompanied by an overall decrease in brain activity. When the animals were awake, ATP levels were steady. When the rats were gently nudged to stay awake three or six hours past their normal sleep times, there was no increase in ATP.
The authors conclude that sleep is necessary for this ATP energy surge, as keeping the rats awake prevented the surge. The energy increase may then power restorative processes absent during wakefulness, because brain cells consume large amounts of energy just performing daily waking functions. _Physorg
Now that scientists have a clue as to where to look for sleep's regenerative effects on the brain, they can begin to devise alternative ways of stimulating that regeneration -- other than to consume 1/3 of every 24 hour day for that purpose.

Alternative schedules of sleep / wake cycles, napping strategies, electromagnetic stimulation, nutritional or exercise strategies, etc -- there is likely to be workable ways by which an individual could achieve brain ATP regeneration AND redeem some of those 8 hours of sleep for productive or leisure activity. More living, in other words, without endangering one's health.

It is a mere glimpse behind the curtain of sleep, but it could prove to be a useful one. Two extra hours of productive wakefulness over 30 years can give you two and a half extra years of intentional living. If you are just as rested and just as healthy, then there are few reasons not to have more awake time.



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