“We need sleep. It cleans up the brain”

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A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease…

“Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard…a leader of the study.

For centuries, scientists and philosophers have wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain. Only recently have scientists shown that sleep is important for storing memories. In this study, Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues unexpectedly found that sleep may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules.

Their results, published in Science, show that during sleep a “plumbing” system, called the glymphatic system, may open, letting fluid flow rapidly through brain. Dr. Nedergaard’s lab recently discovered the glymphatic system helps control whether cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, flows through the brain.

“It’s as if Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues have uncovered a network of hidden caves and these exciting results highlight the potential importance of the network in normal brain function,” said Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D….

The results may also highlight the importance of sleep…“We need sleep. It cleans up the brain,” said Dr. Nedergaard.

RTFA for details of testing and discovery. Sleep studies, the rate of expansion of specialized testing and treatment of ailments like sleep apnea surprise and please me. When I did the testing – nine years ago – that resulted in my CPAP sleeping gear I had to drive fifty miles for the overnight hookup. Now, I can send folks who ask me about treatment to a few local choices.

As treatment and experience accumulate a body of data, more and better treatment continues to develop. Science and healthcare have another avenue opened to improve life.