Taking a nap has officially been likened to letting author and organizational guru Marie Kondo penetrate your innermost thoughts, thanks to New York Magazine's "The Science of Us." This revelation comes as scientists have sought to understand exactly why we sleep, aside from the obvious health benefits. Evolutionarily speaking, going off the grid for six to eight hours every night was a huge risk for our ancestors, who would become vulnerable to a slew of predators between midnight and 6 a.m. So why is sleep so necessary for humans and other species?
For one, the "housewarming theory" argues that sleep allows the brain to spring-clean itself, so to speak. Psychiatrist Giulio Tononi believes that sleep gives the brain the time it needs to "prune away some of the connections between neurons, making room for whatever new information we'll come across when we wake up," writes Cari Romm. "It's a kind of neural Kondo-ing—clearing away the clutter to put the focus on the important stuff."
Tonini believes that this explains why we feel so unfocused and foggy after a restless night's sleep—there's limited room to encode new experiences in your brain. The housekeeping theory is further substantiated by Tonini and team's recent experiment with mice: They measured the size of brain synapses before and after a long period of sleep. Upon waking, the synapse samples in the mice brains were 18% smaller than before hitting the hay, suggesting that their theory holds some weight. Another study suggests that these positive side effects can be compounded when you sleep on your side, a habit that has been linked to clearing metabolic waste.
After waking up tomorrow morning, pick up a copy of Marie Kondo's best-selling book and tell us: What's your trick to falling asleep?