You can find a detox protocol for just about anything these days, including your brain.

With the right supplements, cleansing herbs, and a major overhaul of your diet, among other things, you can supposedly:

  • banish grogginess
  • enhance your memory
  • boost your cognitive function

While certain lifestyle changes can certainly have a positive impact on your health, most medical experts agree that detoxes, including those that focus on your brain, aren’t necessary.

Also, there’s no compelling research to support the use of detoxes.

Your body already has processes in place to get rid of toxins and keep things running smoothly. When it comes to your brain, there’s actually an entire system dedicated to detoxification.

Here’s a look at how the process works and the simple things you can do to support it.

When it comes to detoxification, your brain is pretty good at taking care of business on its own.

Research published in 2015 explains this happens as part of the function of the glymphatic system, which removes waste products from your brain and nervous system. Think of it as the brain’s trash collector.

The glymphatic system does most of its work while you sleep. During sleep, your other bodily processes are less active, allowing glymphatic activity to take priority.

Animal research suggests that there’s also a higher volume of open space between the cells in your brain during sleep, which allows more room for your brain to take out the trash, so to speak.

This process is somewhat complicated, but here’s a quick look at how it works:

  • First, the channels of the glymphatic system fill with cerebrospinal fluid.
  • This fluid collects “garbage” like proteins, toxins, and other waste products as it flows along the network.
  • Your brain then flushes this waste at different drainage sites, where it moves through your body and exits just like any other type of waste.

One important product removed from the brain when eliminating waste products is the protein β-amyloid (beta-amyloid), which experts believe plays a part in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep plays an essential role in the function of the glymphatic system. Getting enough sleep each night is one of the best ways to support your brain’s natural detoxification process.

If you have trouble getting enough quality sleep, try these tips for a better, more refreshing rest.

Maintain a regular bedtime

If you don’t have any particular reason to get up at a specific time each day, your sleep schedule might be all over the place. Maybe you keep a regular bedtime during the week but stay up late and sleep in over the weekend.

This might feel natural to you, but over time, it can do a number on your sleep-wake cycle.

Going to bed (and waking up) at approximately the same time every day can help you get better rest and improve your overall sleep quality.

You can still stay up a little later than usual and sleep in when you don’t need to get up early — just try to avoid varying your sleep schedule by more than an hour.

Part of consistent sleep involves getting the right amount of sleep, which can range from 7 to 9 hours.

Pro tip: Use a sleep calculator to figure out when you should go to bed.

Consider your diet

Eating certain foods, especially later in the day, may disrupt your sleep.

For better sleep, try to avoid the following just before bedtime:

  • large meals
  • heavy or rich foods
  • spicy and acidic foods
  • caffeine (including chocolate)
  • alcohol

If you feel hungry before bedtime, try a better bedtime snack, such as:

  • a banana
  • yogurt
  • a small bowl of oatmeal
  • cheese, fruit, and crackers

Create a comfortable sleeping environment

Keeping your bedroom cool and dark can help you get better sleep.

If you tend to get warm or cold during the night, opt for layers of lightweight, breathable bedding.

You might also consider adding a fan to your room, which can also help to block out any noises that tend to keep you up.

Using your room only for sleeping and sex can also make it easier to fall asleep when you do go to bed.

That way, your brain knows that getting into bed means you’re ready to sleep, not watch TV or scroll through social media.

Set aside some de-stress time before bed

Stress and anxiety are both common culprits behind sleep issues. Making time to relax before bed won’t necessarily get rid of these concerns, but it can help you put them out of your mind for the evening

An hour or so before bedtime, try:

You know that refreshed, focused feeling (despite your tired muscles) you have after a big workout? That’s the glymphatic system kicking in.

Animal research published in 2018 suggests exercise can have a significant effect on waste disposal in the brain.

According to the study results, mice that could exercise by running on a wheel displayed twice the glymphatic activity as mice that couldn’t exercise.

It’s important to note that the increase in glymphatic activity is likely associated with running rather than a direct result of it.

Exercise has plenty of other benefits, too.

It can:

  • help lower your risk for many health conditions
  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • decrease stress
  • increase energy
  • improve your mood
  • improve cognitive function

It’s also worth mentioning that exercise can help you get better sleep, which can also promote glymphatic system function.

Experts recommend getting at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week.

You can also ramp up the intensity and see similar benefits with just 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of intense or vigorous aerobic exercise.

You don’t have to get all your weekly activity at once, either. It’s usually best (and easiest) to get about half an hour of exercise each day.

Any exercise is better than no exercise, so doing what you can to increase the amount of physical activity you get each week can help. Try squeezing in a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both), for example.

Sleep and exercise are beneficial for your brain, but you can still do more to support glymphatic system function and promote brain and body health.

Stay hydrated

Even slight dehydration can negatively affect cognitive functions like concentration and memory, and it can also have an effect on your mood.

You don’t have to drink water all day long to get enough (you also get plenty of water from fruits, vegetables, and other foods). A good rule of thumb is to drink water when you feel thirsty.

Not sure about your fluid intake? Check your hydration status with this chart.

Add brain foods to your diet

Brain foods include:

  • proteins
  • healthy fats
  • antioxidants
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • vitamins

Some examples include:

  • broccoli, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens
  • salmon, pollack, canned tuna, and other fish with low mercury content
  • berries
  • caffeinated tea and coffee
  • nuts

You can never go wrong when adding more fresh produce, lean protein, and whole grains to your diet. Cutting back on processed foods and saturated fats can also give your cognitive function some love.

Take time to relax

Mental breaks are just as important as physical breaks.

Make sure you’re regularly giving your brain a rest by setting aside some time to simply sit and enjoy the moment. This will give your brain a chance to recharge and boost your creative energy. Your brain will thank you.

Don’t feel guilty about not doing anything. Sit back with a cup of tea, listen to music or the birds singing, or watch a sunset. Just remind yourself you’re doing your brain a favor.

Try brain exercises

Don’t forget to give your brain a workout, too. Physical activity helps your brain, but don’t forget about mental activity.

Exercising your cognitive muscles can help keep them finely tuned and operating at their best.


Here are some other ideas for keeping your brain in shape.

If you’re looking to detox your brain, prioritize getting plenty of sleep and exercising regularly. Both of these will bolster up your brain’s built-in detoxification system.

If you have specific concerns around brain fog, fatigue, or other cognitive issues, it’s best to check in with your healthcare provider before starting a detox or cleanse.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.