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Washing Your Brain of The Amyloid Toxin and the Importance of Sleep for fighting Alzheimer’s.

Updated: Nov 6, 2022

Your entire body, with the exception of the brain, is served by the lymphatic system: an extensive network of small vessels that collects liquid outside of cells not transported by the venous blood system. This liquid is lymph and contains cellular waste products. The lymphatic system can be considered the body’s waste management system. It has long been a mystery as to why the brain does not contain lymph vessels. How does it remove waste products produced by brain cells? Then, about a decade ago, a monumental discovery was made by the Danish neuroscientist Dr. Maiken Nedergaard at the University of Rochester Medical Center. She and her colleagues discovered the glymphatic system; named after glial cells: the housekeeping cells that nurture, support and maintain neurons. The glymphatics are the brain’s waste management system; collecting and transporting waste products from the normal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that bathes the brain. Subsequent research demonstrated that both the amount and flow rate of CSF is increased during sleep, especially in deep sleep. Disruption of deep sleep results in impaired function of the glymphatics and reduced clearance of waste. This impaired glymphatic function leads to an increase in beta-amyloid, the toxic substance strongly implicated as a leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As Dr. Joyce Lee-Iannotti, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine – Phoenix, notes: Growing evidence shows that during sleep, there is increased cerebrospinal movement into the glymphatic system, which promotes waste clearance. With sleep disruption from various causes, including normal aging, the glymphatic system may be impaired and result in an increase in beta-amyloid accumulation and subsequent increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.


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