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The Function of Sleep

1 Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10065, USA;
2 Center for Sleep Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10065, USA

Topical Section: The Function of Sleep

The importance of sleep can be ascertained by noting the effects of its loss, which tends to be chronic and partial, on cognition, mood, alertness, and overall health. Many theories have been put forth to explain the function of sleep in humans, including proposals based on energy conservation, ecological adaptations, neurocognitive function, neural plasticity, nervous system and physical health, and performance. Most account for only a portion of sleep behavior and few are based on strong experimental support. In this review, we present theories proposing why sleep is necessary and supporting data demonstrating the effects of inadequate sleep, with the intention of gleaning further information as to its necessity, which remains one of the most perplexing mysteries in biology.
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