A recent study shows that while the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers say that during sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, which then washes away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours. This process is important because the proteins that are getting washed away during sleep are toxic to brain cells. The results appear to offer the best explanation yet of why animals and people need sleep. This could explain why we don’t think clearly after a sleepless night and why a prolonged lack of sleep can actually kill an animal or a person.

The brain-cleansing process has been observed in rats and baboons, but not yet in humans. However, it could offer a new way of understanding human brain diseases including Alzheimer’s. That’s because one of the waste products removed from the brain during sleep is beta amyloid, the substance that forms sticky plaques associated with the disease. This is likely not a coincidence, as Alzheimer’s and all other diseases associated with dementia, are linked to sleep disorders. If this process proves to be true in humans, this could help explain that mysterious association between sleep disorders and brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

For more information regarding this study, read the full article.

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