Unfortunately, sleep is a luxury for many people. Busy schedules keep you awake later each night than you intend. Early commitments get you out of bed before you feel rested.

When it comes to brain health (and mental health while we’re at it), sleep is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. It’s the time our bodies and brains need to readjust, relax and recharge.

It’s also a time of major reset for our brains. The brain is constantly clearing itself of toxins, but cleaning goes into overdrive while we sleep. At night, the brain’s lymphatic system gets going, washing the brain with cleansing fluid.

The space between brain cells expands while we sleep, allowing the fluid to clear out toxins deep in the brain’s cavities. One of these toxins is the β-amyloid protein. This protein contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

This toxin creates a bundle of proteins called amyloid plaques. When these plaques form, neurons can’t communicate effectively. This leads to loss of memory and cognitive function.

Take a minute before bed to thank your brain for its behind-the-scenes cleaning crew. Head to bed a bit early and aim for at least 7 hours of quality sleep tonight.