Israeli Scientists Solve the Mystery of Why We Need Sleep

Have you ever wondered why we get sleepy or why do we need sleep anyway? Not only humans need sleep but almost every organism does from jellyfish to squirrels to us humans. And it’s common knowledge that sleeplessness can lead to death. So, apart from avoiding death, why do we need sleep?

A study by Bar-Ilan University in Israel, published in the journal, Nature Communications, offers up a groundbreaking theory that while we are sleeping our nervous system takes a break from its normal function which then frees up all resources in our body to reduce DNA damage that has accrued during our wakeful hours.

Sleep makes all organisms vulnerable. Its a time when as we sleep we could be vulnerable to attack by predators. So why did we develop the need for sleep, which past studies have shown improves brain performance such as memory and learning which strongly intimates that sleep is biochemically essential

So, you would think we would have been formed to stay awake at all times. And yet, past studies have shown that sleep improves brain performance such as memory and learning which strongly intimates that sleep is biochemically essential and because of this if we are deprived of sleep the end result is a kind of gradual systems collapse in the brain which could then be fatal.

Well, according the study, Prof. Lior Appelbaum – of Bar-Ilan University’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center and his colleagues, believe they have discovered biological reason of why we sleep.

They used live zebra fish to conduct their study because when zebra fish are young they are transparent and this allowed researchers to observe what was happening in their brains during wakefulness and sleep.  Like humans, Zebra fish sleep during the night.

Researchers already knew that from the beginning of an organism’s existence, its DNA suffers damage from oxidants like air, sun and even brain activity. But in theory it has been assumed that damage to cells is repaired by DNA repair enzymes while sleeping.

So, researchers developed a method to mark chromosomes in the fish’s DNA to observe what happens while the fish slept in the movement of their brain’s neurons.

They used 3D time-lapse photography and saw that while the young Zebra fish was awake, the chromosome movement in the center of the fish cell slowed down and damage to the DNA accumulated and after prolonged wakefulness the fish died. But while the fish slept, the chromosome movements were faster and faster chromosome movement showed the efficient maintenance of each individual cell nuclei by normalizing the levels of DNA damage.

What the study showed was that while the fish slept its nervous system shut down allowing its DNA damage to be repaired.

So be sure to get your proper amount of sleep every night to get the most repair for your body!