Why do We Sleep?

Posted on May 1, 2007  Comments (4)

Study puts us one step closer to understanding the purpose of sleep:

Sleep remains one of the big mysteries in biology. All animals sleep, and people who are deprived of sleep suffer physically, emotionally and intellectually. But nobody knows how sleep restores the brain.

Although an electronic power-napper sounds like a product whose time has come, Tononi is chasing a larger quarry: learning why sleep is necessary in the first place. If all animals sleep, he says, it must play a critical role in survival, but that role remains elusive.

Based on the fact that sleep seems to “consolidate” memories, many neuroscientists believe that sleeping lets us rehearse the day’s events.

Tononi agrees that sleep improves memory, but he thinks this happens through a different process, one that involves a reduction in brain overload. During sleep, he suggests, the synapses (connections between nerve cells) that were formed by the day’s learning can relax a little.

4 Responses to “Why do We Sleep?”

  1. CuriousCat: Scientists Reconsider Autism
    February 29th, 2008 @ 7:51 am

    it is hard for me to understand how to learn if we insist on not acknowledging what seem as pretty obvious factors of the situation to me…

  2. CuriousCat » Bird Brain Language Research
    March 16th, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

    “Vocal learning is a critical behavioral substrate for spoken human language. It is a rare trait found in three distantly related groups of birds-songbirds, hummingbirds, and parrots…”

  3. Curious Cat: Do Dolphins Sleep?
    September 4th, 2008 @ 8:04 am

    “Dolphins do sleep, but not quite in the same way that people do. They sleep with one half of the brain at a time and with one eye closed…”

  4. CuriousCat » How Marbles Are Made
    January 3rd, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

    More posts on how things work: Why do We Sleep? – Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations? – What Are Flowers For?..

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