This question has long puzzled researchers and there have been many theories. Only recently have scientists linked sleep to memory storage. In one study, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard and her associates found that during sleep, the brain essentially goes through a rinse cycle. The brain physically cleans itself of toxins that build up during the day.
Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. While we sleep, our brain cells shrink, increasing the space between them by as much as 60 percent. The increased space allows cerebrospinal fluid to move freely and wash away cellular waste. When we wake, the brain cells enlarge and the flow slows to a trickle.
Some of the residue removed is linked to Alzheimer’s. The study speculates that it is probably no coincidence that sleep disorders are linked to dementia. Adequate sleep may be vital in slowing the progression of brain diseases.
We cannot abstain from sleep, even if we wanted to. Every animal sleeps. Scientists and researchers are closer than ever to uncovering the mysteries of what exactly happens when we sleep, and why we need sleep.
“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”– W.C. Fields