Sleeping shrinks your brain and it’s good for you

Did you know that your brain actually shrinks when you go to sleep in order to help you learn? Basically what happens during the day is that information is being continuously relayed through your neurons. These cells of the brain and the nervous system strengthen and widen throughout the day to accommodate the increasing traffic. However if this continues indefinitely the neurons would end up burning out.  Research done by scientists, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, has shown that this burnout is prevented by the shrinking back of the synapses or junctions between our neurons by at least 20% when we sleep. This helps the synaptic terminals rest and reset, known as the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis, thereby allowing better learning and cognition upon waking up. This occurs due to the fact that sleep helps reinforcement of memories. Another interesting fact is that only about 80% of the total neurons in our brain undergo this shrinking process. The larger neurons which probably are associated with more important memories are not affected, reinforcing the idea that the shrinkage is only for those neurons that form temporary connections, only important on an acute basis. This is why it is crucial to get a good night’s rest to allow optimal functioning the day after. Though the definition of a good night’s sleep might vary from one individual to the next, adhering to sleep hygiene and being aware of how much sleep works best for you would be the best way to developing a sleep schedule that will get you ready for anything the following day has to offer.

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