Sleeping position could trigger diseases like ALS in your brain, study finds

THE position you sleep in could trigger or suppress diseases like ALS. A new study has found.

Research found that sleeping on your back, side, or front can affect your brain health.

Researchers have found that side sleeping may be the most effective means of protecting against developing neurodegenerative diseases like ALS


Researchers have found that side sleeping may be the most effective means of protecting against developing neurodegenerative diseases like ALSPhoto credit: Getty

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the most common form of motor neuron disease.

People with ALS progressively lose the ability to control muscle movement, including the ability to speak, swallow, and breathe. There is currently no known cure.

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis have many things in common, even if their clinical symptoms and course of the disease are very different.

The prevalence of ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, increases with age and leads to a gradual loss of brain tissue.

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The key is that researchers say there’s also an increase in waste proteins that build up in the brain in these diseases.

A study recently published in the British scientific publisher BioMed Central examined a group of mice and identified a new target in the fight against ALS.

The research looked at how the glymphatic system, which removes waste from the brain, might prevent ALS.

Protein chains, folds and misfolds

In our bodies, long chains of proteins fold into functional shapes that allow them to perform specific tasks, including making antibodies to fight infection, supporting cells, and transporting molecules.

Sometimes this process goes awry, resulting in “misfolded” proteins clumping together. These can fragment and form seeds that spread throughout the brain and form new clusters.

The researchers studied mice that had been genetically modified to see if eliminating or slowing the spread of these waste proteins and their seeds could halt or slow the progression of the disease.

findings of the study

The results showed that the mice exposed to the protein involved in ALS showed classic symptoms of the disease, including brain atrophy.

In addition, they had poorer ability to remove glymphatic waste.

The study provides the first evidence that the glymphatic system could be a potential therapeutic target in the treatment of ALS.

Importance of how we sleep

The glymphatic system removes waste, including toxic proteins, from the brain, but it is generally unresponsive while we are awake. Instead, it turns on when we sleep.

However, with age, sleep quality decreases and the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including ALS, increases.

Sleeping position is also thought to affect glymphatic clearance.

Research conducted in rodents has shown that glymphatic clearance is most efficient in the lateral (or side-sleeping) position, compared to supine (lying on your back) or prone (lying on your front) position.

The reasons are not fully understood, but the results suggest that it may be related to the effects of gravity, compression and stretching of the tissue.

Aside from sleeping position, lifestyle can also support glymphatic function.

Omega-3, found in marine fish, has long been recognized as beneficial to health and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. New research shows that these benefits are due in part to omega-3’s positive effects on glymphatic function.

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Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve waste elimination. In mouse studies, both short- and long-term exposure to small amounts of alcohol have been shown to increase glymphatic function, while high doses have the opposite effect.

Exercise has also proven beneficial.

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Sarah Y. Kim

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