Sleep is an essential part of life, and its importance to the brain cannot be overstated. Recent research has revealed that sleep plays a vital role in the communication between neurons, as well as in the removal of toxins that accumulate while we are awake. It has also been found that some individuals may be more prone to cognitive impairment due to lack of sleep, and this may even have a genetic component. It is well known that inadequate sleep can lead to drowsiness and fatigue during the day, but there are other, more serious consequences.
Studies have shown that those who sleep for less than seven to eight hours a night are mentally two years older than those who get the recommended amount of sleep. Furthermore, sleep deprivation has been linked to memory problems, cognitive inflexibility, and an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, depression, and cancer. The exact function of sleep remains a mystery, but it is clear that it plays an important role in our lives. During sleep, the space between brain cells expands significantly, allowing for the removal of toxins through cerebrospinal fluid.
This process is known as 'brain cleaning'. Additionally, hormones are released during sleep which can help regulate metabolism and reduce inflammation.