Foaming brain

You're Being 'Brainwashed'

March 04, 2022

When you hear the term brainwashing, you may think of it as an ominous experience. However, recent research suggests that we undergo our own type of "brainwashing" each night while we sleep - and it's a good thing.

Think of this process as a brain bath where your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pulses through your brain while you sleep, washing out unnecessary proteins and other "debris."

Researchers believe this "washing" eliminates toxic proteins and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. New research suggests it may also play a critical role in healing mild traumatic brain injuries.

"The news is exciting and important because we are finding out how important sleep is to our lifetime health," says Dr. Ivia Rivera Agosto, neurologist and co-director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center.

Worldwide, at least 50 million people are living with Alzheimer's or dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Additionally, 1 in 3 seniors die of Alzheimer's - more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

"A problem with Alzheimer's patients is that they do not sleep well, and so this might indicate these patients may have fewer chances of such proteins being eliminated," Dr. Rivera Agosto said.

Research from Boston University found that there may be a link between slow wave activity and the CSF flow that helps flush out toxic proteins that lead to a decline in memory abilities.

The science is similar when evaluating traumatic brain injuries. The "waste" your brain produces increases with injury which in turn increases the need for it to be "flushed away."

By examining the brainwashing we experience in our sleep, researchers are hopeful this process can help keep the human brain healthy, free of unnecessary waste, and aid in healing.

If you're having trouble sleeping or you've noticed issues with memory, talk to your primary care provider or consult a neurologist.