The burden of wake and the reasons of sleep
- just make sure to be on time! -
Sleep is universal, tightly regulated, and many cognitive functions are impaired if we do not sleep. But why? Why do our brains need to disconnect from the environment for hours every day?
The synaptic homeostasis hypothesis (SHY) proposes that sleep is the price the brain pays for plasticity, to consolidate and integrate what we already learned, and be ready to learn new things the next day. New experiments support the notion of a net increase in synaptic strength during wake and synaptic down-selection during sleep. These findings can explain why sleep is necessary for the well-being of neural cells and brain circuits, and how the regulation of synaptic strength may be a universal, essential function of sleep.
Giulio Tononi, MD, PhD
University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry