Health

Want to keep learning? Sleep on it

We've always been told that we need sleep for our brains to learn new things. And now scientists have found visual proof showing that is the case.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Centre for Sleep and Consciousness found - through electron microscope pictures - that the brain's synapses shrink by nearly 20 per cent when you sleep.

During this process, called synaptic homeostasis, synapses - connections between neurons - rest and grow stronger for the next day when the brain learns new things.

Without it, synapses can become overloaded and burnt out - much like an electrical outlet with too many appliances plugged in to it.

The findings, published in journal Science, supports the notion that sleep is essential for the consolidation of memories and learning, said Professor Russell Foster, who directs the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford.

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