Gunk between cells is cleansed during slumber
L. Xie, H. Kang and M. Nedergaard
Sleep showers away cellular grime that builds up while the brain is awake — just the sort of process that could have made sleep a biological imperative, scientists reported in October (SN: 11/16/13, p. 7).
People have long puzzled over the evolutionary pressures that led animals to need sleep even though it leaves them vulnerable to predators and other dangers. Rinsing off the brain and disposing of waste proteins and other gunk might help explain why sleep evolved.
Many other things that sleep does, such as strengthening memories, are important. But they are probably bonuses to the real reason that slumber is necessary, says Suzana Herculano-Houzel of the Federal University of Rio