Get Brainy: Sleep Well

The past month I’ve learnt about the brain at medical school. There was of course a lot of latin words that needed to be learnt by heart, not to mention the many brains that we had to cut through in order to study the inside areas. But out of the physiology, one theme in special made an impression; sleep. Several of the professors repeatedly mentioned the importance of this relatively foreign life as an important state of mind. Why?

Systems for memory – keep and toss

Professor Johan Frederik Storm at The Oslo University held a brilliant lecture on memory and learning, emphasizing the importance of sleep for long term memory. For while our body is taking a time out, the connections that are responsible for creating new memory are strengthened. Furthermore, information is put into system whilst we are sleeping. The brain actively differentiates between “noice” and important information. The memorable worth information is strengthened, whilst irrelevant facts are tossed. Hence, we tend to wake up with a stronger feeling of perspective and a better overview than the night before.

Sleep is key in the process of learning.

Sleep initiates cleaning mode

Not only does sleep promote a better memory, recent science has revealed that sleep is essential in the cleaning process of the brain. In our body, the lymphatic system is responsible for cleaning up waste products. Excess water and other cells that have leaked out from our blood vessels are being brought back to the blood system by our lymphatic vessels. From here, the waste is processed out through our kidneys. In the brain, however, we do not have lymphatic vessels. Instead we have a CSF flushing system.

The TED-talk below summarizes the findings of neuroscientist Jeff Illiff. While you sleep, he says, the brain is set into a cleaning mode where cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) flushes through the brain and cleans out waste products that have built up throughout the day. This only happens during sleep, and not when we are awake. Futhermore, it is essential to avoid an accumulation of waste products in our brain.A good nights sleep does really seem to be clearing our minds!

The Yoga Science Study

The first measurements for Yoga Science’s randomized controlled trial is starting on Monday! The next year we are investigating whether yoga promotes well being, sleep and academic results. Some students might find that pranayama (breathing exercises) will benefit their sleep quality, whilst others might prefer meditation. It will also be very interesting to see whether we find a link between sleep and memory among the participants. Stay tuned!


Tiril Elstad, the lady behind Yoga Science is an expectant mother, a medical student and trained yoga instructor undertaking a PhD on the science behind yoga in her spare time (I know, right?).  You can read more about Yoga Science here, and read the yoscience blog here

More reading…

To read more about the study – check out “The Yoga Science Study”.

Are you a student in Oslo fall 2017 and new to yoga? Then you are potential candidate for the study. Check out “Questions and Answers – The Yoga Science Study” or contact info@yoscience.com