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Our poor sleeping habits are filling our brains with neurotoxins.

Our poor sleeping habits are filling our brains with neurotoxins Quartz


We’ve known for some time that sleep is important for the restoration and strengthening specific functions in the brain linked to memory, regulating emotions, decision-making, and even creativity. But scientists are now discovering the processes through which sleep also cleans the brain like a plumbing system, in the process changing its cellular structure.

This research has led to an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the brain’s internal workings—and is one more reminder of why it’s so essential that humans make sure they get the proper amount of sleep.

Previously, scientists thought the brain only cleaned itself by trickling toxins through brain tissues, but researchers now believe wastes are forcefully pushed through the brain at a much faster and higher pace, according to Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicin  at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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Why has this not been studied till now?

Basically, the cerebrospinal fluid sits around your brain and spinal cord and “every six to eight hour period, filters through the brain while you’re asleep,” Tara Swart, a senior lecturer at MIT specializing in sleep and the brain, told Quartz. “The whole process takes six to eight hours.”

Much more important than your average cleaning system, this process clears neurotoxins out of your brain, specifically one called beta-amyloid, which has been found in clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. When this system can’t function properly due to lack of sleep, harmful remnants, like beta-amyloid, are allowed to build up.

A 2015 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience was one of the first to look at humans rather than animal subjects when examining how sleep can fight against memory impairment. As it turns out, beta-amyloid also works to prevent your body from getting the rest it needs, creating something of a vicious cycle for the chronically sleep-deprived.

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