Jan. 9, 2014 — Why do animals ranging from fruit flies to humans all need to sleep? After all, sleep disconnects them from their environment, puts them at risk and keeps them from seeking food or mates for large parts of the day.
Sleeping puppy. Is sleep the price the brain must pay for learning and memory? (Credit: © paul prescott / Fotolia)
Two leading sleep scientists from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health say that their synaptic homeostasis hypothesis of sleep or “SHY” challenges the theory that sleep strengthens brain connections. The SHY hypothesis, which takes into account years of evidence from human and animal studies, says that sleep is important because it weakens the connections among brain cells to save energy, avoid cellular stress, and maintain the ability of neurons to respond selectively to stimuli.
“Sleep is the price the brain must pay for learning…
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