Why Do We Need To Sleep?

I like sleeping. Lying in bed and surrendering yourself to a long rest is a great pastime. I wish I could do it all the time, but alas, even I have chores and work to do. On a more serious note, why do our bodies need to go to sleep anyway? A recent study attempted to explore the evolutionary reasoning behind our biological necessity for sleep:

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The cortex is one of the most complex brain regions. It can permanently readjust its structural connections to store new memories and eradicate old ones and consumes a large amount of energy for information processing.

While in principle any neuron might have a mechanism that allows it to switch off before it’s damaged by excessive use, the cortex might be the region that needs sleep most and tells us first when we are tired and how much sleep we need.

If the cortex does play such a big role in making us tired, could we somehow manipulate the cortex and change our need for sleep? In recent years, several techniques have been developed to stimulate the brain from the outside with electrode pads placed on the head or through magnetic coils positioned above the skull.

Both these methods generate electrical currents that modulate the electrical signals that neurons use to communicate with each other. This can therefore allow researchers to modify brain activity in a specific area — such as the cortex.

Image credit: Lux Graves

Source: neatorama

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