We live in a society where getting a good night’s sleep is nearly impossible. Many of us work long hours, while others are constantly distracted by phone calls, texts and social media messages. It’s no secret that sleep is good for you, but did you know that a good night’s sleep can also clean out your dirty brain? That’s right, scientists have discovered that sleep is not just good for the body, but can cleanse the mind of its junk, including the proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep is essential for nearly every living being on the planet, but scientists are still not entirely sure why. So how did scientists come to this new discovery? As is the case with most scientific findings, they stumbled upon it by accident. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center were studying a brain drainage system called the glymphatic system in mice. These mice were looked at under a microscope, and as researchers trained them to lie still, sometimes the mice fell asleep. When this happened, scientists observed that the fluids in the rodents’ brains flowed out, as if a faucet were turned on. Further research uncovered glial cells that acted as that faucet, shrinking and swelling to allow fluid to exit the brain.
As substances build up in the brain while we’re awake, this research showed that one of these substances is A-beta, one of the proteins related to Alzheimer’s disease. Previous experiments showed that the number of these proteins decreases when we’re sleeping, but until now, we didn’t understand exactly how that occurred. This new research not only gives us better insight into how the brain functions, but also how doctors might use sleep in future Alzheimer’s treatments. Needless to say, it's important that we all get our shut-eye.
Via Science News