The way you sleep can mean many things, but did you know it can also affect the way in which your brain rids itself of unwanted waste? A recent study carried out by Stony Brook University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience has found that certain sleeping positions may effectively remove brain waste and aid in reducing the chances of developing neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, which may be caused by harmful chemicals that our brain should be regularly clearing itself.
The researchers used dynamic contrast MRI scans to determine that a lateral sleeping position may be the best way to clear the glymphatic pathway in the brain. If this complex system isn’t able to effectively clear the waste from the brain, such as amyloid β and tau proteins, it can lead to the development of severe neurological conditions. Principal Investigator and Professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Radiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Dr. Benveniste, used dynamic contrast MRI scans on rodent models for years before advancing his research. Using these scans, Dr. Benveniste and his team could locate and classify the glymphatic pathway, which is most efficient during sleep as the cerebrospinal fluid enters the brain and exchanges with interstitial fluid to clear unwanted and harmful waste.
“The analysis showed us consistently that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral position when compared to the supine or prone positions,” said Dr. Benveniste. “Because of this finding, we propose that the body posture and sleep quality should be considered when standardizing future diagnostic imaging procedures to assess CSF-ISF transport in humans and therefore the assessment of the clearance of damaging brain proteins that may contribute to or cause brain diseases.”
The analysis showed that glymphatic transport was most efficient in the lateral – or side – position when compared to other sleeping positions and that this technique should be used as standard in future research into CSF-ISF transport as it can be greatly beneficial to understanding the clearance required to prevent harmful chemicals being retained within the brain.
Interestingly, the lateral position is the most common among humans and animals alike, almost as though it’s instinctual to clearing our brain waste. The researchers, however, caution that whilst they speculate that the lateral position clears brain waste most efficiently, MRI scans are still imperative for further testing.
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