Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why Do We Sleep?

An article from the University of Wisconsin takes a closer look at one of the research teams that just published a new study on sleep and memory.

It explains how their research is taking the study of sleep and memory in new directions. It also examines the question that lies at the foundation of their research: Why?

Why do we sleep? It’s a simple question. And progress is being made to answer it. But definitive answers remain elusive.

“Why is it that the brain cells need to sleep?” researcher Chiara Cirelli said in the article. “That’s really what we are trying to understand.”

Cirelli and colleague Giulio Tononi probed this question last fall in the essay “
Is sleep essential?” They conclude that there is still no consensus for “the elusive phoenix of sleep.”

Emmanuel Mignot explored this “unsolved mystery” last year in “
Why we sleep: the temporal organization of recovery.” He concludes that it is still unclear why sleep is required. But “recent work suggests multiple roles.”

And Jerome Siegel addressed the topic in the 2003 article “
Why we sleep.” He writes that “we have no comparably straightforward explanation for sleep.” But sleep research has led to numerous “reasonable proposals.”

A group from Spain offered a more controversial perspective in the 2007 article “
The trivial function of sleep.” They argue that “sleep does not provide additional advantages over simple rest.”

So why do we sleep? Researchers are exploring complex answers to this simple question. And the debate is sure to continue.

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