Skip a night’s sleep, and you end up hungrier, less coordinated, and anxious—possibly because may be running short on myelin, a type of cell essential to brain function. If the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience hold up, part of the mystery of why we need sleep can be explained by myelin production.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin working on mice found that the production of myelin doubled when the mice were asleep, doing particularly well during the REM stage of sleep. Myelin unsheathes nerves and allows neurons to transmit messages faster. Unmyelinated neurons are slower, and result in reduced motor function.
By contrast, genes involved in stress responses and cell death increased when the mice were forced to stay awake.
So, there’s another reason to get a solid seven—the cells that support your nervous system need it.