Why Do We Sleep?


Just like you need food and water to survive, you also need adequate amounts of sleep to stay healthy. Sleep may be regarded as a passive activity that just happens at the end of the day or when you’re tired, but it holds great significance for all your normal body functions. Did you know that We spend a third of our lives sleeping

All human beings have an internal biological clock responsible for regulating your 24 hours of the day and your daily sleep-wake cycles. We call this process; circadian rhythms, and it is greatly influenced by sunlight during the day. Your brain contains unique clusters of nerve cells that constantly receive signals as they are exposed to natural light. This helps your brain determine whether it’s day or nighttime. As the day begins, your body releases a hormone called cortisol that enables you to keep up and running throughout the day. At this time, your brain is stimulated and alert and starts actively performing its functions. Whereas In the evening, in the absence of bright light, your body releases another hormone called Melatonin that is responsible for your sleep. So eventually, you get tired and exhausted and are likely to fall asleep. 

According to some studies, sleep may also be related to a molecule called adenosine. Your body produces this molecule, and it increases in concentration throughout the day. While you’re asleep, this molecule is broken down by your body to reach its normal levels. 

There are four stages in a sleep cycle. One of them, known as REM sleep or Rapid eye movement sleep, is strongly linked to memory consolidation. REM lasts for 90 minutes and dreaming usually occurs in this stage of deep sleep. Sleeping is a fundamental process during which multiple changes are happening in your body. The exact mechanism behind why we sleep may be unknown, but some educated speculations are available.  

According to the cell restorative theory, it gives your body the time to repair and heal itself. Your body is responsible for regulating your vital functions like breathing, circulation, growth, and immune system. Your body makes particular proteins called cytokines that help fight off infections and inflammation. While you sleep, your body also goes through cell and tissue repair, synthesis of proteins and hormones.  

On the other hand, the energy conservation theory states that your body conserves energy when it’s harder to hunt for food. This means that while you sleep, your body uses less fuel than when you’re awake. The conserved energy gives you a fresh boost early in the morning that keeps you proactive throughout the day. Sleeping allows your body the time to focus its energy on your healing and immunity.  

Another theory regarding sleep is the brain plasticity theory. According to this, your nerves and neurons need time to reorganize and function after a long tiring day. Your brain clears out the waste and the build-up of toxins produced during the day due to your brain’s normal functioning.  

While you sleep, your brain is quite busy consolidating all the memories that are made during the day. It helps store the important short-term memories as long-term memories and remove the irrelevant ones. You may have noticed that after a day of memorizing, you’re more likely to remember everything if you sleep right after it. So, sleeping plays a vital role in your memory and removing toxic wastes from your brain. 

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Sleeping also gives your brain the time to process information that it has been receiving throughout the day. Your brain helps you in the decision-making process. It also receives various stimuli from your sensory organs like the eyes, nose, and ears. After a day full of activity, your brain needs time to cool down and refresh itself to get ready for another day. Having a good night’s sleep is essential for your brain to help you learn, concentrate and improve your problem-solving skills.  

Sleeping is also crucial for your mental health and emotional well-being. While you sleep, the areas of your brain responsible for handling emotions have increased brain activity, helping you achieve emotional stability.  

So, what happens if you don’t sleep? Well, by day 1 or 2, you already start feeling lethargic, cranky and it becomes harder to concentrate. By day 3, you may even begin to hallucinate. Studies have shown that some people adapt to chronic sleep deprivation. They may not feel the exhaustion their mind is being put through. Though the detrimental effects soon follow. Missing out on sleeping hours is related to several deadly diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, heart diseases, and a weakened immune system. Without enough sleep, your body cannot function adequately. It impairs your memory and your ability to concentrate and process information. 

A well-disciplined routine is essential to get the appropriate amount of sleep. Having the same routine every day helps your body adapt to a pattern and a nighttime routine. Exercising during the day, having a comfortable sleeping environment, and limiting screen time before bed helps significantly to achieve the target sleep according to your age group. Children generally require longer hours, whereas adults on average need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day. Sleeping keeps you refreshed, energized and is indispensable for your brain and body functioning.

Until Next Time,

Team Doctor ASKY!