What’s so important about sleep?

Smiley sleeper e

It’s common to try to cram more waking hours into each day. About half of people worldwide get less than six hours [sleep] a night, according to the Guardian.

During our waking hours, we’re constantly taking in new information. As we do, our neurons make connections among themselves called synapses. During sleep, those same neurons examine the synapses made during the previous day or (or two, or three, if you’ve been learning something over time).

It provides our muscles and organs a chance to rest, for example. In theory, we could get this from any time physically relaxing, but realistically sleeping through the night is the only way most people will fully slow down.

There might be benefits of sleep that we don’t yet understand, too. Scientists can only study sleep in humans by keeping willing participants awake for longer than they’re comfortable—which means, to date, sleep studies have been relatively limited.

That said, scientists are pretty sure sleep in-and-of-itself is vital, in part because it’s widely believed to be something all animals do (paywall). “Sleep…is playing a vital function in our and other species’ survival–even if we don’t know for sure what that function is at this stage,” says Nadine Gravett, a neuroscientist.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: What is sleep, even?

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