Researchers with The Sunnybrook Research Institute have shown that poor sleep quality may prevent the brain from clearing itself of toxins.

Courtney Berezuk, with the L.C. Campbell Cognitive Neurology Research Unit at Sunnybrook says regular daily activity causes a build-up waste and metabolites in the brain, which the brain then flushes out at night using cerebrospinal fluid.

“We go to sleep at night, the brain opens up, and the fluid is able to rush through, cleaning it out, similar to how a toilet would flush out waste… that’s a simple view of what’s going on,” she said.

Using MRI scans of volunteers at a sleep lab, the Sunnybrook researchers found that people who had had a bad night’s sleep, getting only about three hours of sleep, had enlarged VRS brain spaces.

That suggests these spaces have become blocked and unable to clear toxins properly, says neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Mark Boulos, the study’s principal investigator and senior author.

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