We spend a third of our lives sleeping, so it must be important. Now research has uncovered an unexpected function of sleep…

In a new study, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel have revealed a novel and unexpected function of sleep that they believe could explain how sleep and sleep disturbances affect brain performance, ageing and various brain disorders.

We need sleep for nuclear maintenance

Using 3D time-lapse imaging techniques in live zebrafish, the researchers were able to define sleep in a single chromosome resolution and showed that single neurons require sleep in order to perform nuclear maintenance.

Getting enough sleep may protect your heart

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Sleep reduces DNA damage in neurons

DNA damage can be caused by many processes including radiation, oxidative stress, and even neuronal activity. DNA repair systems within each cell correct this damage.

The current work shows that, during wakefulness, when chromosome dynamics are low, DNA damage consistently accumulates and can reach unsafe levels.

The role of sleep is to increase chromosome dynamics and normalise the levels of DNA damage in each single neuron.

Apparently, this DNA maintenance process is not efficient enough during the online wakefulness period and requires an offline sleep period with reduced input to the brain in order to occur.

Think of it as road repair

“It’s like potholes in the road,” says Prof. Lior Appelbaum, of Bar-Ilan University’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Centre, who led the study. “Roads accumulate wear and tear, especially during daytime rush hours, and it is most convenient and efficient to fix them at night when there is light traffic.”

Appelbaum calls the accumulation of DNA damage the “price of wakefulness”.

A rocking motion may help you to sleep better and boost your memory

Source: Bar-Ilan University via www.sciencedaily.com

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