URMC study reveals brain 'takes out the trash' while we sleep

Updated: 10/17/2013 6:25 PM
Created: 10/17/2013 3:33 PM WHEC.com

After a long hard day, how important is it to get a good night's sleep for you? For most people, if we don't get enough rest, we can end up cranky and have trouble focusing on tasks. On Thursday, for the first time, News10NBC is getting a real look at what happens in our body and why sleep is so important. It's a brand new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Scientists at the University of Rochester say while you are sleeping, your brain is actually cleaning itself out. During the day and while you are awake, all of your cells accumulate waste products in your brain that can be toxic. If those toxins aren't cleaned out, they build up and kill cells. This study shows, as you sleep, your brain is getting a bath in a clear liquid called cerebrospinal fluid. The toxins are eventually flushed out and sent through the spinal cord to the liver.

A build up of certain proteins in the brain can lead to Alzheimer's. Doctors say this finding about how sleep helps clean the brain could one day help prevent or treat Alzheimer's and other brain diseases. 

Doctor Rashid Deane, URMC professor, said, “Definitely, we need to clear this material out because it's not good. When it accumulates there because it is associated with Alzheimer and it may be associated with other diseases as well so this end product that metabolizes needs to be cleared."

Will Pigeon, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, said, "We hear about eight hours of sleep. It really is about what people need but there's a variation between more than that and less than that. So what's the affect of not getting it? For one night, not that much, but for a week or month it starts to add up.”

While this study makes it clear just how important sleep is, unfortunately, for many of us, it is a luxury.

In fact, doctors say nearly 40 million people have some sort of sleep disorder.

Doctors stress the importance of trying to get the recommended six to eight hours of sleep every night.


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