Apparently, our brains are taking in too much during the day.
(Yes, even the days spent entirely in front of your television.)
For years, researchers have been developing the theory that one of the key purposes of sleep is so our brain can parse through all the things we learned that day—and cut what's unnecessary.
Papers published in Science this week delve into the research that's been conducted.
Back in 2003, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses (junctions between two nerve cells) in the brain grew so much during the day that our brains got "noisy."
Sleeping, they said, is a way for our brains limit the connections and pick out the important stuff.
Without this nightly cleanup, our memories would be fuzzy, and our minds clogged with clutter.
The research also brings up questions about the consequences of sleep medications. Dr. Tononi said it's possible these drugs may interfere with this important daily brain function.
"You may actually work against yourself," he told The New York Times.
In the future, sleep medicines may be altered to preserve the pruning of your brain's synapses.
So go ahead, hit snooze. Your brain needs it.
H/t: The New York Times