Each one of us may have wondered at some point of time that why do we sleep. And the only logical answer that we have got is that our body gets tired so, it takes rest. But scientists have recently found that sleep may actually help to clean the brain off its harmful waste that builds up during the day.
The study was conducted on mice and it found that during the sleep, brain clears away toxins that are believed to be responsible for brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
"This study shows that the brain has different functional states when asleep and when awake," the study's lead author, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center for Translational Neuromedicine, said in a university news release. "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."
The lymphatic system disposes cellular waste throughout the rest of the body, but this waste removal system does not include the brain, Nedergaard's team found in earlier research.
The new imaging technologies enabled the researchers to examine the brain of, a living mouse to determine how the brain gets rid of the waste. A unique process called the glymphatic system was discovered that is guarded by a complex gateway known as the blood-brain barrier.
The investigators noted that the amount of energy used by the brain increases during sleep and that is when its waste-removal process becomes more active.
"The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states -- awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up," explained Nedergaard.
"You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time."
The study was published in the journal Science on October 17.
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