Researchers have found that the brain uses sleep to clear away the toxins left in the brain after a hard day thinking or at work. The US research team believe that this is one of our fundamental reasons for sleep.
Their study, published in Journal Science suggests that the brain cells (probably the glial cells) shrink during sleep which opens up the gaps between the neurons (nerve cells) which then allows fluid to ‘wash’ the brain clean. Scientists call these gaps interstital. The study also implies that the brain failing to pick clear some of the toxic proteins could play a role in brain disorders.
These findings build on last years discovery of the brain’s own network of “plumbing pipes” – known as the glymphatic system which clears waste material out of the brain. Scientists who imaged the brains of mice showed that the glymphatic system became up to 10 times more active when the mice were asleep.
The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK said more research is needed but possible damage to the brain’s waste removal system could offer a “potential new avenue for investigation”