Sleep. Why we need it and what sleeping does.

Sleep - why do we sleep

Ever wondered why we need to sleep on a regular basis?

While you may correctly say that you go to sleep because you are tired, there is actually a lot more to it than drool production and the cultivation of morning breath.
There are five stages of sleep. stages 1 to 4 and REM or Rapid Eye Movement.
These stages progress from 1 through to REM and then start at 1 again with a complete cycle taking approximately 90 to 110 minutes.
Just like hunger thirst and sexual desire, sleeping is a physiological need and drive.
But if sleeping does not serve a biological function then it is the biggest evolutionary blunder that has ever endured.
While you may correctly say that you go to sleep because you are tired, there is actually a lot more to sleeping than drool production and the cultivation of morning breath. Click To Tweet

While we still do not fully know why we need to have quality sleep, recent research has started to make some interesting discoveries.

Your 7 to 8 hours in bed serves a multitude of biological processes that are essential to the normal systemic operation of the body and mind.
A good night’s sleep consolidates learning, clears toxins from the brain and releases growth hormones ready for rebuilding.
These are just a few of the many benefits of sleep, which explains why the lack of sleep is so detrimental to the life process.
In fact, death by sleep deprivation is possible and fatal familial insomnia is a heritable human disorder that leads to unrelenting insomnia and eventual death.

How much sleep does science think we need?

  • Infants 9 – 10 hrs at night with 3 or more hrs of naps
  • Toddlers 9 – 10 hrs at night with 2 – 3 hours of naps
  • School-age children 9 – 11 hrs
  • Adults 7 – 8 hrs

Many studies have shown a direct link between the number of hours spent sleeping and improved mood and learning.

During sleep the body’s immune system releases Cytokines, a type of Protein.
some of these aid in promoting sleep while other certain Cytokines are needed to aid in fighting infection or inflammation.
Sleep deprivation can reduce the production and effectiveness of these Proteins.
Studies show that depriving someone of slumber for 24hrs, post immunisation, will have a major detrimental effect on antibody production.

People who lack sleep will often crave high calorie foods.

Lack of rest will stimulate the production of Ghrelin, an appetite stimulating hormone and reduce the production of Leptin a hormone that inhibits the feeling of hunger by signalling the brain that there is no need to eat.

  • A lack of sleep will also cause a cortisol spike, which is not something you want if you’re looking to de-stress and lose weight.
  • Research shows that lack of sleep may also increase the development of type 2 diabetes.
  • A single nights sleep deprivation can affect the formation of emotional memories.
  • Research suggests that when you are sleep deprived you form twice as many memories of negative events as positive events.

Under certain circumstances this negative reinforcement effect may contribute to the development of depression.

With regards to learning

Sleeping has the most beneficial effect on information that will be of future use and relevance.
The sleeping brain takes information that has been newly learned and works it into information that is already stored, it then calculates the different possibilities and solutions to problems.

This is why, with a quality nights sleep, you really can sleep on a problem and wake with the embryonic idea of a solution.

Although some people claim to be able to get by on less rest than normal, research shows that after several nights of such shortened snoozing, the ability to perform complex mental tasks diminished drastically.

Now here is the really interesting bit…

From a biological point of view, during a good night’s slumber, the body has its waste cleared via the flow of cerebrospinal fluid between the spine and the brain.
To aid in bathing the brain in this fluid the space between the cells in the brain actually increase.

The TED Talk above goes into a little more detail on the brains nocturnal regenerative process.

In Summary

  • Sleeping is a biological necessity and you should be trying to get at least 7-8 hrs of it every night.
  • If you are learning a new skill or topic, get plenty of sleep to aid in consolidation of the newly learned information.
  • Trying to lose weight or de-stress? get more sleep to aid in reducing cortisol
  • Feeling under the weather or having a vaccination? Sleeping will aid recovery, promote the maximum production of antibodies and generally make you feel better.

So there you go, it is better to get some good quality shuteye that try and burn the candle at both ends.

Pu-Erh tea can also aid in reducing the time it takes to drop off, see my post on Pu-Erh tea here.

Have any tips of your own you want to share? Please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading.
If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, it is recommended to seek the advice of a medical doctor who may be able to identify the underlying cause and aid you into a better nights rest.

2 thoughts on “Sleep. Why we need it and what sleeping does.

  1. This article is a source of inspiration for me, it helps me a lot in sleep problems. I
    also used Rain Sounds on YouTube to fall asleep easily.
    Thanks, keep it up!

  2. I agree! I think it does not mater how many hours It depends on the individual. I myself sleep on a problem, then wake up better armed with ideas.

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