Scientists have discovered how getting a goodnight's sleep can help avoid various types of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.
Maiken Nedergaard and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that the brain clears toxins and other wastes during sleep. The findings reported in the journal Science are expected to pave the way for better treatment for neurological disorders.
Researchers reported that during sleep the waste removal system of the brain becomes highly active and by reducing the size of its cells, it removes the waste effectively. "This study shows that the brain has different functional states when asleep and when awake," lead author of the study, Nedergaard, said in a news release. "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."
Last year, the same scientists had uncovered the unique cleansing system of the brain, known as "glymphatic system" to the world. The regular clearance of toxic proteins like amyloid-beta from the brain is crucial to avoid brain diseases like Alzheimer's, they explained.
The researchers conducted experiments on mice and found that the glymphatic system was 10 times more active during sleep, thus helped avoid the accumulation of cellular waste products, including amyloid-beta.
Interestingly, sleep enabled more space between brain cells by reducing their size by 60 percent. This helped free flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). "These findings have significant implications for treating 'dirty brain' disease like Alzheimer's," Nedergaard, explained. "Understanding precisely how and when the brain activates the glymphatic system and clears waste is a critical first step in efforts to potentially modulate this system and make it work more efficiently."