URMC Finds New Reasons To Sleep Better

Oct 17, 2013

(WXXI News & AP) A new study led by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center finds another reason we should all be getting a good night's sleep. That’s because our brain needs time to clean itself.  

When we sleep, our brains get rid of gunk that builds up while we're awake. That's suggested by a study that may provide new clues to treat Alzheimer's disease and other disorders. 

This cleaning was detected in the brains of sleeping mice, but scientists said there's reason to think it happens in people too. 

People who don't get enough shut-eye have trouble learning and making decisions, and are slower to react. But despite decades of research, scientists can't agree on the basic purpose of sleep. Reasons range from processing memory, saving energy to regulating the body. 

The latest work, led by scientists at the University of  Rochester Medical Center, adds fresh evidence to a long-standing view: When we close our eyes, our brains go on a cleaning spree. 

Dr. Rashid  Deane is one of the authors of the study.

"This is now a fundamental pathway, or process, which believes that sleep is important to clean the brain, " Deane told WXXI News.

Dr. Will Pigeon is Director of Sleep Research at the U of R Medical Center. He says this is just another reason why we need 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

"This epidemic of insufficient sleep in this country and others is certainly not overblown by any stretch of the imagination."

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Its program director says the findings could lead to new approaches for treating a range of brain diseases.