Here's a fun fact: your brain cells shrink when you're asleep—and it’s a good thing!

According to a new study featured on TIME, the brain gets rid of cellular garbage when you’re resting at night. Its housekeeping team, known as the glymphatic system, releases cerebrospinal fluid that flows through the brain to wash away waste materials back to the circulatory system, which the liver then processes and disposes.

Using a technique called two-photon microscopy on laboratory mice, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard and her team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) found that brain cells actually shrink by 60 percent when a person is asleep to help the glymphatic system do its job more efficiently.

As cerebral toxins that are flushed out include cells and proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems, the study highlights the need for people to have healthy sleeping habits.

“The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states – awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up,” says Nedergaard. “You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can’t really do both at the same time.”


(Photo by X O X O L I C I O U S by Flickr Creative Commons)

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