How Your Sleep Position Can Impact Your Brain’s Waste Removal

A recent study performed at Stony Brook University has led researchers to believe that sleeping in the wrong position can have dire consequences, as it has a crucial impact on your brain’s waste removal process. You may end up increasing your chances of developing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s later on in your life, without even knowing what you’re doing wrong.

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Let’s first understand what we mean by brain waste, and how its improper removal may have devastating effects on your health.

Understanding the Workings of the Brain

The brain is the most overworked organ of the body. Every other organ and organ system works because the brain works to make it so. With all this work that the brain carries out on a regular basis, there is a ton of waste buildup that requires disposal. Of course the brain doesn’t have a garbage truck come by every morning to pick up its trash, but it does have its own system for cleaning- the glymphatic system.

A complex structured system of pipes works hard to clear the brain waste, functioning much like the way the lymphatic system works to clean rest of our body. This system for waste removal wasn’t discovered up until very recently, when a research group at the Rochester Medical Center University made the fascinating discovery.

What Is Brain Waste?

Now coming to the question: What is brain waste? To put it simply, brain waste is a mixture of tau proteins and amyloids that are no longer useful and need to be taken away. And it is precisely these molecules’ buildup that may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer and many other types of neurological disorders, and seriously impact your health negatively.

The glymphatic system remains functional throughout the day, however it is the most active when a person is asleep, and that is when the removal of waste proteins becomes possible. Without the glymphatic system to clean the mess, these non-soluble proteins will continue to pile up, causing a plaque to form over the brain cells and unleashing terror on the nervous system. Scary, isn’t it?

How the Study Was Conducted

The recent study on the relation between sleep position and brain waste removal was conducted using MRI and contrast dye; this was to trace the glymphatic system and then track the movements of substance it uses for waste-clearing and this was done on the brains of mice that had been anesthetized. The mice were lying in three diverse positions – supine (on their back), prone (on their stomach), and lateral (side).

The study tracked the rates at which waste was removed in these three individual positions, and found that the lateral sleeping position had a great advantage.

As of now, the study has to be performed on humans, but still there are many good things we may learn from this study’s conclusion. Dr. Nedergaard, co-author of this study, explains,” Our finding brings new insight into this topic by showing it is also important what position you sleep in.”

The analysis over and over again proved that glymphatic transport is the most competent in the side position when you compare it to the back or stomach positions. And although there is still not enough proof to convince the diehard stomach and back sleepers to amend their positions, there is hope for those who have a history of Alzheimer in their family.

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