Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Not so good for the mice, but a step forward for science. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Someday, maybe I’ll write a book full of health and wellness habits.
But, it will only include habits that are either things I like to do already, or else things that are so easy they’d require zero effort.
Chapter 1 would be about drinking tons of coffee. Maybe also Chapter 2, while we’re at it.
There would be a chapter about eating mushrooms, one about drinking wine. Also, one about running, since it’s good for you and I’m trying to get myself to get back into it.
(Honestly, rereading my post in which I described going for a 6.6-mile run on a whim at 4:45 a.m. a few years back—something I doubt I could do right now—has lit a fire under me.)
There would also be a chapter about sleep, which I enjoy and that I’m good at. And, at least a big, fat paragraph about sleeping on your side.
Let me just tackle the side sleeping thing here, in case I never get around to writing the book.
I came across it recently during a typical Bill Murphy Jr. “working but it doesn’t look like normal work” session, in which I flew at the speed of ADHD through a bunch of interesting articles that might lead to fodder for newsletters or articles, and wound up far afield from what I’d originally set out to find.
Like penicillin, safety glass, and the microwave oven, sometimes we uncover the best discoveries while looking for something else.
In this case, I found myself reading (as one does) about a study in the peer-reviewed journal Translational Neurodegeneration that discussed the potential causes of motor neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).
Australian researchers theorized that impairment of the glymphatic system, which removes waste from the brain (working mostly while we sleep), might be associated with onset of the disease to begin with.
So, they did an experiment with genetically modified mice to test it out.
To make a very long story short, when the scientists fed some of the mice with food that was designed to impair glymphatic clearance during sleep, the mice began to show "classical signs of ALS including progressive muscle impairments and brain atrophy."
Not so good for the mice, but a step forward for science.
Then, almost as an aside, the study authors cited human behaviors which seem to contribute to effective glymphatic clearance, such as:
consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids (found in marine-based fish);
moderate alcohol consumption (the emphasis is on moderate; high doses of alcohol had the opposite effect);
sleeping on your side.
There you go; it was that last behavior that leaped out.
Sure enough, there's a whole body of research that suggests sleeping on one's side, rather than face-down or on your back, can increase the brain-cleaning function of glymphatic clearance.
"The reasons for this are not yet fully understood," wrote study author David Wright, "but possibly relates to the effects of gravity, compression and stretching of tissue."
So, where does all this leave us? Certainly, I hope and pray that you never have to contend personally with motor neuron diseases. But, it’s kind of cool to learn that a simple habit like learning to sleep on your side might offer tangible benefits.
Even better, I came across several other studies suggesting that a majority of people already sleep on their sides, without even trying to, and that the reason they do so is that we’ve evolved this way specifically to clean up the mess in our brains.
“Lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals," one of the authors of that study wrote, adding that it’s "a distinct biological function of sleep is to 'clean up' the mess that accumulates while we are awake."
It’s good for you, it’s easy to adopt, and you might well be doing it already without even thinking about it.
Make sense? Glad to hear it. Now I’m going to sleep.
7 other things worth knowing today
The Supreme Court saying it will release rulings on Friday in addition to its regularly scheduled Thursday plan. Among the big cases still to come: a decision expected to reverse Roe v. Wade, a case about whether Alabama's legislature drew its congressional districts illegally in order to dilute Black voters' power, and a major Second Amendment case that could overturn strict gun laws in states like New York, California and New Jersey. (The Hill, NorthJersey.com)
A strong earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, killing more than 1,000 people, according to officials from the country's ruling Taliban regime. "Some families have completely vanished," one official said, as images emerged of collapsed homes across the region. (CBS News)
Nearly a month after 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the city says it will demolish the building. "We could never ask a child to go back, or a teacher to go back, into that school ever." (Scary Mommy)
Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from NYC is the third-most densely populated community in the U.S., with more than 42,000 people per square mile. That's what makes it pretty wild that a simple change has enabled it to have zero pedestrians killed in traffic accidents since 2018. Basically, they installed planters and barriers that make it physically impossible to park cars in ways that block people's view of traffic. (Curbed)
California becomes the first state this summer to require schools to start later, in the hope of getting kids more sleep. (The Atlantic)
How to destroy your business with a single piece of paper and some tape: Progressive and Allstate insurance companies terminated their relationships with a Maine insurance agency after it displayed a racist sign on Juneteenth that went viral on social media. (NPR)
A rare planetary alignment that won't occur again for nearly two decades has taken shape. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have lined up in the early morning sky, a planetary procession that can be seen above the eastern horizon every morning through the end of June. (Accuweather)