What Is the Glymphatic System?

The glymphatic system refers to the system of blood vessels in the body that removes waste products from the brain and central nervous system. The glymphatic system is most active while you sleep, which is why getting a good night’s rest is imperative for feeling mentally sharp.

How does the glymphatic system work?

  • This system depends on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which enters spaces next to smaller blood vessels that lead to the brain.
  • CSF interchanges with interstitial fluid, the fluid surrounding the brain cells.  This helps form a glymphatic vasculature that “detoxifies” the brain by collecting waste, such as proteins (including the protein called beta-amyloid, which may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease), metabolites, toxins, etc.
  • This system then carries this waste away from your brain and through your body so it can be dispelled.
  • While we’re sleeping, there is increased glymphatic activity due to greater availability of space between interstitial and cerebrospinal fluid. Exercise can also boost glymphatic activity, according to some studies.

When the glymphatic system is disrupted, diseases of the brain start to happen, as well as symptoms like brain fog and poor memory. Studies have shown that a well-functioning “removal system” in the nervous system is important for prevention of neurodegenerative disorders.

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