Scientists of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Freiburg, Germany, have found out that during sleep the activity of the synapses is reduced for the most part resp. completely degraded. Only essential connections remain. The findings have been published in the journal “Nature Communications”.
During daytime, we absorb impressions and information. The more active we are the more active our brain must be, new synapses are formed resp. already existing synapses are strengthened. According to Christoph Nissen, director of studies, they succeeded in proving that during sleep the synapse-activity is reduced. This flexibility between activity and passivity – called “synaptic plasticity” – is basis for effective learning and flexible information processing. It makes room and creates energy to gather and process new information.
This regulation is not working when we are suffering under a lack of sleep due to sleep disturbances or insufficient sleep hygiene. As a result, our brain gets downright overloaded. The arising interruption of the natural regulation process leads to a lack of space and energy needed for strengthening and for new formation of synapses. Thus, learning and processing of information are difficult.
During daytime, the intensity of synapse activity increases, during sleep it reduces. If you lack sleep this natural circle is interrupted. Due to the so-called homeostatic plasticity (guarantee of permanent stimuli-procession), our synapses are very active during wakefulness. If we deprive our brain of the opportunity to “turn off” we are weakening the already existing synapses. Because, the incoming new stimuli must be processed, too. The scientists assume that all brain functions are affected by this – not only learning and solidifying but also concentration and regulation of our emotions.
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Study: Sleep recalibrates homeostatic and associative synaptic plasticity in the human cortex