A recent scientific revelation demonstrated that the internal body clock controls brain waste removal. Previously, it was believed that sleep itself was a crucial player. These new findings are instrumental in proving that the body’s inherent circadian rhythm, not sleep, is the controlling element in how the brain is able to effectively eliminate waste.
What is the glymphatic system exactly?
Recent studies and discoveries show that this is one of the brains primary waste clearance routes. This glial-dependent system is engineered to eliminate a myriad of soluble waste proteins and metabolic products, moving them out of the brain. This waste system was first discovered in 2012 by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York. The scientists named it the gylmphatic system because its function is managed by cells called “glial cells.”
The Glymphatic System operates in a similar way as the lymphatic system, the lymphatic system removes waste from the body, and the Glymphatic System removes waste from the brain. The glymphatic system connects with the overall lymphatic system through the dura. This thick membrane of irregular connective tissue covers the brain and spinal cord, carrying blood from the brain toward the heart.
The circadian rhythm is important!
The circadian rhythm is influenced by a host of environmental cues such as light. The research is clear that this rhythm is tied to the cycles of dark and light that occur within a 24-hour period. During daylight hours, exposure to light leads the master internal clock to produce the alert state that keeps you awake. As the darkness begins to set in at the end of the day, the clock boosts the production of melatonin in an effort to encourage and support healthy sleep.
When the circadian rhythm is at peak functioning, you are more likely to enjoy deep and restorative sleep. However, a disruption to this rhythm can create a variety of both physical and mental health issues.
Your biological clock controls brain waste removal
The researchers discovered that the glymphatic waste removal system was the most active when the mice were asleep. The specific results demonstrated that the volume of interstitial space increased at a rate of 60 percent while the test animals were asleep; as the volume increased, the rate of the removal of amyloids increased. From these findings, the scientists were able to conclude that “the restorative function of sleep may be a consequence of the enhanced removal of potentially neurotoxic waste products that accumulate in the awake.”
This study strongly indicates that the circadian rhythm is the driving force behind the effectiveness of the glymphatic system. Furthermore, observations in mice show that waste removal is likely not as efficient when an individual sleeps during the day. This provides further proof that regular and consistent sleep cycles during hours of darkness deliver a restorative function and protect the brain from various disorders.