Sleep Cleans Trash From Your Brain

Scientists have found a system in the brain that flushes out waste products from the brain.  And they further found that this system is mostly active when you are sleeping.  This information is found in a study published in the journal, Science.

Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine said, “In fact, the restorative nature of sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.”

This system has been named the glymphatic system, your brain’s unique way to remove waste produces.  Mainly active during sleep, it clears out the toxins which have been shown to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease as well as other neurological disorders.  Your brain’s cells shrink about 60% during sleep which allows the waste products to be removed more easily.

The purpose of sleep has been a big question throughout time.  Remember that it has significant problems for the one asleep. There are many predators that can take advantage of this time when one is most vulnerable.  Therefore, sleep must be much more important than just to help consolidate our memories. There must be something else to outweigh this vulnerability that exists every night!

We have a system that disposes of waste in the body known as the lymphatic system, but the lymphatic system doesn’t extend to our brain.  Our brains are protected by a very tight, complex blood-brain barrier.  That barrier controls what can enter and what can exit our brain.

The brain’s glymphatic system pumps cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) throughout the brain tissue, and it flushes the waste into the veins in the brain and gets back into our blood circulatory system.  The waste finally gets to the liver where it is cleaned up.

The nightly removal is essential; accumulation of toxic amyloid-beta proteins can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. In is a fact that almost all neurodegenerative diseases are associated with this buildup of cellular waste products.

Authors of the study include Maiken Nedergaard, Lulu Xie, Hongyi Kang, Qiwu Xu, Michael Chen, Yonghong Liao, Thiyagarajan Meenakshisundaram, John O’Donnell, Daniel Christensen, Takahiro Takano, and Rashid Deane with URMC, Jeffrey Iliff with Oregon Health and Science University, and Charles Nicholson with New York University. The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

One of the biggest things that cause a lack of sleep is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  The main symptom of OSA is snoring! And this condition is treatable! If you or someone you know snores and has a lot of daytime sleepiness, have them get tested for OSA. The test is simple and can be done in your own home privately by yourself.