Does sleep ‘clean up’ the brain?

Bethesda, MD – Sleep may help remove toxins associated with brain degeneration, concludes a new study from the National Institutes of Health.

In a study involving mice, the space between brain cells was found to expand 60 percent during sleep, allowing for the elimination of toxins that have accumulated in the brain. Researchers discovered the part of the brain responsible for the change was the glymphatic system.

Based on previous studies linking toxin buildup to neurodegenerative disorders, researchers in this study injected mice with a protein related to Alzheimer’s disease. They compared how long the protein remained in the brain when mice were awake and asleep, and found it went away faster during sleep, according to an NIH press release.

The study was published online Oct. 18 in the journal Science.