Sleeping could help repair DNA damage that accumulates during the day in neurons, the Guardian reports.
Researchers from Bar-Ilan University took time-lapsed images of tagged chromosomes in zebrafish and, as they report in Nature Communications, Bar-Ilan's Lior Appelbaum and his colleagues found that when the zebrafish were awake, chromosomal repair processes were less active and DNA damage accumulated in neurons. But when the zebrafish were asleep, their chromosomal dynamics increased and DNA repair becomes more efficient.
"It's like potholes in the road," Appelbaum says in a statement. "Roads accumulate wear and tear, especially during daytime rush hours, and it is most convenient and efficient to fix them at night, when there is light traffic."
It also, he adds, suggests why organisms ranging from jellyfish and zebrafish to flies and humans need to sleep. According to the Guardian, Appelbaum and his colleagues plan to next study chromosomal dynamics and different sleep stages in mice.