Sleep is universal in animals, but its specific functions remain elusive. We propose that sleep's primary function is to allow individual neurons to perform prophylactic cellular maintenance. Just as muscle cells must rest after strenuous exercise to prevent long-term damage, brain cells must rest after intense synaptic activity. We suggest that periods of reduced synaptic input ('off periods' or 'down states') are necessary for such maintenance. This in turn requires a state of globally synchronized neuronal activity, reduced sensory input and behavioural immobility - the well-known manifestations of sleep.
Nat Rev Neurosci
443 - 451
Animals, Brain Waves, Cell Physiological Phenomena, Humans, Models, Biological, Neurons, Rest, Sleep