The Clean-Up Theory of Sleep: What is it?

6 min readMay 11, 2020


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Sleep is one of the most precious commodities of human life and has been a subject of interest since time immemorial. Every human being craves a good night’s sleep, as it presents an opportunity to reset, rewind and being anew, refreshed and active! The way we sleep and how much we sleep determines a lot about how productive, healthy and happy we are. Scientists and medical practitioners have investigated and found links of sleep with various behavioural, mental and physical functions, to determine the exact reason why we sleep.

A major study, proposed in 2013, has found an answer to that question. As per the theory, sleep allows the brain to clean itself, releasing toxins and other waste produced throughout the day. This helps to cleanse our brain and give the refreshed feeling we get after a good night’s sleep.

Let us understand more about this theory and discover the various ways to make your sleep more productive and rewarding!

Their findings indicate that sleep can be directly correlated to the clean-up of the brain as:

  1. A large amount of cerebrovascular fluid flowed through the brain during sleep, which helps to rid the brain of toxins
  2. The interstitial spaces between brain cells are enlarged during the sleep cycle, allowing fluids to flow more freely
  3. These brain activities of clearing waste are critical to help battle neurological conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s and strokes. The results observed that lack of sleep could play a role in such circumstances.

This direct correlation of sleep with various neurological conditions showcases the importance of getting proper rest. Nedergaard also mentions how this is important, especially when observing the effects on humans who work late shifts or the entire night and how the imbalance in their sleep schedule could be detrimental to their overall health.

The research establishes that sleep deprivation, lack of proper rest and issues related to getting quality sleep has a direct impact on mental and physical health. Not just tiredness and difficulty in concentration, various psychological problems could occur due to improper sleep. This makes it extremely important to get proper sleep, allowing sufficient time off every night to ensure you are well-rested.

How Can We Sleep Effectively?

As the theory suggests, a good night’s sleep is essential for the overall health of human beings. However, research indicates that in the past few decades, the quality, as well as the amount of sleep of adults, have declined drastically. This has led to an increase in overall weight, lack of energy and decrease in overall productivity.

To get proper sleep, the following are a few suggestions and tips to create a better sleep schedule:

Lights Out

For most animals, the setting of the sun kicks in the bodily reaction to rest and recuperate. With humans too, that was the case until the discovery of fire and now electricity. The addition of light has enabled humans to dispel the darkness of the night and be more efficient. While this has increased productive time for us, it disrupts the human sleep pattern. Bright light or blue light has been known to trigger the brain to stay awake, and as smartphone displays get more dazzling, the disruption in sleep schedule has been immense.

Create a habit of dimming the lights around 9 pm and make your room completely dark before its time for bed. If you have a habit of using the smartphone at night, cut down on it and enable night mode to block the blue light that’s emitted from the screen. Just doing this simple thing has showcased to increase sleep productivity significantly.

Create A Sleep Schedule

The modern lifestyle has led to erratic schedules, and there is no proper time to go to sleep. Although it is okay to enjoy a night out once in a while, doing so frequently may not be the smartest thing to do. To ensure your body naturally gets to sleep, follow a sleep schedule and maintain it for a few days.

Once your body clock for sleep kicks in, you will not have difficulty falling asleep when its bedtime. This will also help to get good quality and quantity sleep and will have you wake up naturally too, without the sound of the alarm buzzing you awake!

Watch What You Eat, & Drink

Another essential factor of the modern lifestyle that impacts sleep is the habit of overeating and eating too late. Having late-night dinners which are heavy often tend to impact your sleep and even though you may feel sleepy, your body takes additional time to adjust. Try to have dinner at least 3 hours before you plan to head off to bed. If you must, eat a light meal and have some warm water to ensure that you don’t feel hungry late at night.

Watch not just what you eat, but also what you drink. Alcohol and other beverages may not be the best idea if you plan to get healthy sleep. Although it may seem that alcohol helps you fall asleep quicker, it is actually hard for the body to sleep as alcohol is known to lead to sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns.

Exercise Regularly, But Not Late In The Night

A hard day’s work helps to get a good night’s sleep and exercising has a direct impact on your sleep. Adults who exercise regularly tend to sleep better and fall asleep a lot quicker. Exercise has shown to reduce the time to fall asleep by 55% while increasing the overall sleep time by 18%.

However, that does not mean you can exercise before you hit the bed and expect the same results. Performing a physically strenuous activity before you sleep can disrupt your natural sleep pattern, as the increase in activity pumps up the body to get active. Exercise stimulates your body’s alertness and has an impact on your hormones with the rush of epinephrine and adrenaline. Doing so at night will disrupt your sleep hormones and studies have shown an adverse effect. A casual walk or stroll may be helpful, but a heavy workout is a complete no-no!

Get A Comfortable Bed & Mattress

Your mattress and your bed may seem like a trivial thing, but has a significant impact on the quality of your sleep. If your mattress and cushion are not suitable for your sleeping habit, it will result in you waking up often and even hamper you from falling asleep quickly. If you are having problems sleeping, try out a comfortable mattress or a new pillow to see if there is any change.

Also, make sure you are creating a comfortable space for yourself when you go to sleep. Not just the lighting, also make sure the room temperature is correctly set to ensure you fall asleep and do not wake up either sweating or freezing in the middle of the night.

The bottom line: Sleep is essential for your health

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Humans are the only species that willingly delay their sleep. But very few realize that a healthy sleep schedule is just as important as diet or exercise to keep oneself healthy. Without the right amount of sleep, even the best exercise regime may not have the effect one expects.

So follow the healthy sleep habits, and get at least 8–9 hours of sleep to decrease the risk of developing heart disease, health issues as well as neurological problems. Although the right amount of sleep and the quality of sleep is relative for every human being, the easiest way to know you are getting your quota of sleep is doing some self-analysis. Are you well-rested, fresh and rejuvenated when you get up in the morning? Do you feel drowsy despite getting the right amount of sleep? These answers could be a good start to know where you stand and how you can improve the quality of your sleep.

If you’re interested in making sleep a priority, abide by the tips tonight and make your sleep environment ideally suited for optimal and healthy sleep.




Wakefit is a research and innovation driven sleep solutions company founded with a vision to democratize sleep in India.