If you do not snooze you lose | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 20, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:03 AM, September 20, 2020

If you do not snooze you lose

Scientists are providing a fuller understanding of the essential role that sleep plays in brain health, identifying an abrupt transition at about 2.4 years of age when its primary purpose shifts from brain building to maintenance and repair.

Researchers on Friday said they conducted a statistical analysis on data from more than 60 sleep studies. They looked at sleep time, duration of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, brain size and body size, and devised a mathematical model for how sleep changes during development.

There are basically two types of sleep, each tied to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. REM, with the eyes moving quickly from side to side behind closed eyelids, is deep sleep with vivid dreams. Non-REM sleep is largely dreamless.

During REM sleep, the brain forms new neural connections by building and strengthening synapses that enable them to communicate, reinforcing learning and consolidating memories. During sleep, the brain also repairs the modicum of daily neurological damage it typically experiences to genes and proteins within neurons as well as clearing out byproducts that build up.

At about 2.4 years of age, the findings showed, sleep's primary function changed from building and cutting connections during REM sleep to neural repair during both REM and non-REM sleep.

"Sleep is required across the animal kingdom and is nearly as ubiquitous as eating and breathing," Van Savage, a UCLA professor,  said. "I'd say it is a pillar of human health." 

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