New research from Boston University suggests that we undergo brainwashing while we sleep.
But it’s not the brainwashing you might think.
After falling asleep, the brain’s neurons go quiet. Then some blood leaves the brain, allowing for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to flow in, and cleanse the organ in rhythmic, pulsing waves.
Researchers believe this “washing” eliminates toxic proteins and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
“The news is exciting and important because we are finding out just how important sleep is to our lifetime health,” said Dr. Ivia Rivera Agosto, a neurologist with an interest in sleep maintenance at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.
According to a story in NPR, researchers discovered that this increased flow was possible in part because when “mice went to sleep, their brain cells actually shrank, making it easier for fluid to circulate.” But when the animals woke up, the brain cells enlarged again and the flow between cells slowed to a trickle.
Scientists noticed that during sleep, the system that circulates cerebrospinal fluid through the brain and nervous system was “pumping fluid into the brain and removing fluid from the brain in a very rapid pace,” the article said.
One of the toxins removed was beta amyloid, the substance that forms plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.
Worldwide, some 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Additionally, 1 in 3 seniors die of Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
“A problem with Alzheimer’s patients is that they do not sleep well, and so this might indicate these patients may have fewer chances of such proteins being eliminated,” Dr. Rivera Agosto said.
This information may provide a link between sleep disturbances and progression of the disease.
For more information on brainwashing or Alzheimer’s, speak with your health care provider.