How Sleep And Meditation Really Affect Your Brain

Here's what the science says.

01/22/2016 04:17 pm ET

Scientists have long known that sleep and meditation can lower stress, improve memory, and might even help with maintaining a healthy weight, among other health benefits.

But what else can these practices do to our brains, and how so?

The Huffington Post recently sat down with Dr. Edward Boyden, neuroscientist and associate professor at MIT Media Lab, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the hunt for evidence behind how sleep and meditation affect us on a neurological level.

"People have been studying how sleep might actually help with, potentially, things like the clearance of toxins and byproducts of the metabolic process that you want to get out of the brain," Boyden said.

In other words, our brains flush out toxins -- such as damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration -- that build up during our waking hours.

This cleaning process not only helps to keep our brains healthy, but also might shed light on why sleep is important for creativity and insight -- two benefits also associated with meditation.

"I think that there are many traditions, such as meditation, that can help us be more attuned to what our mind really wants," Boyden said. "I found it to be very helpful in helping deal with all the pressures and different drives and motivations that are important, and yet, you can only be doing one thing at a time."

To learn more about sleep and meditation, watch the video above. 

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