Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation, a recent study has found, is linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The body needs adequate amounts of sleep, during which our brains get cleansed of the daily toxins they have accumulated, Without sufficient sleep, these toxins can build up, and destroy brain cells, according to researchers.
What is the fluid which cleanses our brains of accumulated toxins?
Think of cerebrospinal fluid as the Scrubbing Bubbles of our brains. While we’re asleep, our cerebrospinal fluid acts like the flood of waters Hercules released when he used them to clean out the Augean stables as one of his 12 labors.
The cerebrospinal fluid flows like a river in our brains and is elevated when we sleep, and it acts to wash away harmful proteins which have accumulated during the day, according to a study which was based on the sleep patterns of mice.
The flow of our cerebrospinal fluid both into and out of our brains during our sleep is controlled by our glymphatic systems. Our glymphatic systems become 10 percent more active while we sleep.
University of Rochester Professor of Neurosurgery Dr. Maiken Hedergaard, the author of a study in the journal Science, compared the way the cerebrospinal fluid scrubs waste proteins from our brains to a “dishwasher.”
If the results of this study on mice holds true with humans, it could be an explanation of why many people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases also experience sleep disorders.
It could also explain why we need sleep. Sleep is probably necessary for multiple reasons, but one of the most important of them is to allow our brains to have sufficient time to cleanse themselves of waste proteins.
How did Professor Nedergaard discover that cerebrospinal fluid acted like the Srubbing Bubbles of our brains?
It was while studying the sleeping patterns and brains of mice that Nedergaard and a team of her fellow scientists noticed the dramatic flow of cerebrospinal fluid into the brains of the mice when they were asleep.
According to Nedergaard, the cerebrospinal fluid of the mice was both being pumped into the brain and then removed from it “in a very rapid pace.”
Nedergaard and the other scientists also saw that the brain cells of the mice shrank by as much as 60 percent during the process. They theorized that this shrinkage possibly made it easier for the circulation of the fluid to occur. Upon waking up, the brain cells of the mice would enlarge again, going back to their regular size.
This coincided with the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid to slow down and practically stop, “almost like opening and closing a faucet,” according to Professor Nedergaard.
In a previous study which led up to this, Nedergaard and her team had discovered that the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brains of sleeping mice acted to scrub away and cleanse waste proteins that built up in-between brain cells.
Cleansing the brain of the toxins which have accumulated during the day, Nedergaard theorizes, uses a lot of energy.That could be why the majority of this process happens during our down time, while we are asleep. It could also be the reason why we sometimes have difficulty thinking clearly after a restless night where we get very little sleep.
Beta amyloid, a substance which forms sticky plaque which has been detected in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s, is one of the toxins cleansed from our brains as we sleep.
During our waking hours, the levels of beta amyloid concentrations increase, according to Professor of Neurology Randall Bateman, who did not take part in this study.
It has been previously documented that the levels of beta amyloid in our brains gets lower while we sleep, and Bateman says that the findings of this study might suggest “a beautiful mechanism by which this may be happening.”
According to Dr Nedergaard, understanding how the glymphatic system works and how the brain activates it while we sleep will be “a critical first step in efforts to potentially modulate this system and make it work more efficiently.”
Eventually, scientists might develop a way to control and improve how much of these waste proteins like beta amyloid is removed from our brains as we sleep. This might then lead to a decrease in the numbers of people who get Alzheimer’s disease each year.
As we sleep, our brains register just as much activity as when we are awake. Part of the reason for this is that our brains are working to remove potentially harmful toxins which can cause the death of brain cells and also result in various brain disorders and diseases, like Alzheimer’s. Though further research is needed, evidence suggests that getting enough sleep could be a crucial element to help prevent getting brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Written by: Douglas Cobb