By Dr. Mercola
Scientists have long tried to tease out the purpose of sleep, and countless studies have concluded that sleep is deeply interconnected with your health in a myriad of ways. As just one example, previous research has found that sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness.1
Quite simply, even if you do everything else right, if you don’t sleep enough, your health and well-being will still suffer. You may even die prematurely, should poor sleep plague you long-term.
Now, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine believe they may have discovered yet another clue as to why sleep is mandatory for good health—especially brain health.
Their report, published in the journal Science,2 reveals that your brain has a unique method of removing toxic waste through what’s been dubbed the glymphatic system.3, 4, 5, 6, 7
The clincher is that this system ramps up its activity during sleep, thereby allowing your brain to clear out toxins, including harmful proteins linked to brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s for example.
What’s more, they discovered that your brain cells actually shrink by about 60 percent during sleep, which allows for more efficient waste removal. According to lead author Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., featured in the video above:
“This study shows that the brain has different functional states when asleep and when awake. In fact, the restorative nature of sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.”
What Is the Glymphatic System?
In your body, the lymphatic system is the system responsible for eliminating cellular waste products. However, the lymphatic system does not include your brain. The reason for this is that your brain is a closed system, protected by the blood-brain barrier, which controls what can go through and what cannot.
In a previous animal study,8 Dr. Nedergaard showed that the brain