Sleeping for a third of a day has to have a purpose, if not, its not particularly advantageous to human evolution. Scientists have been studying sleep for decades and have come up with some answers. Here are 5 functions your brain carries out during sleep.
1. Taking Decisions
A study published in the journal Current Biology revealed that the brain is more than capable of decision making while asleep. Participants in this study were given spoken words to categorize by pushing buttons on either side. They were also allowed to fall asleep in this experiment as it went on and the study revealed that even during sleep, the brain continued to react similarly to tests. It was still making decisions.
In sleep, the brain creates new memories, links recent memories with old ones and “cements” them so that the individual doesn’t forget. If sleep is rejected to stay awake longer, the ability to absorb new information can drop by 40% according to Dr. Matthew Walker (UC Berkeley).
3. Creating Connections
During sleep, the mind forms connections between seemingly unrelated things. This may lead to Eureka moments or profound understanding of the world around you. Its much like forming an original idea in your head, its spontaneous.
4. Clearing Out Toxins
A series of studies in 2013 made headlines by claiming to have found the “reason” for sleep. It was found that during sleep, the brains of mice were cleared of neurodegenerative cells or toxins. The build up of these could lead to a greater chance of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
5. Learning and Remembering to Perform Physical Tasks
During REM sleep, short bursts of high frequency waves called sleep spindles transfer information on motor tasks from the motor cortex to the temporal lobe. This helps us efficiently and correctly perform physical tasks.