We all know that sleep is essential, and a good night's sleep will set you up to feel good and have a more productive day. Scientists have several theories about why we sleep. One theory suggests that being inactive at night, when we are more vulnerable, is advantageous for our safety. Another theory is based on the fact that our metabolism slows when we sleep; sleeping helps us conserve our energy, especially when foraging for food is less efficient. These theories may lead you to think- hey, in today's modern world, I can be safe at all hours and my fridge is full of food. So it should be fine to shrug off sleep so I can get more done every day!
Other sleep theories (as well as your life experience when sleep deprived!) tell us that sleep plays more important roles in our health and well-being. Some are based on evidence that found restorative functions, such as muscle growth, tissue repair, and hormone release happen mostly (or only) during sleep. Sleep also improves our cognitive function and alertness. The brain plasticity theory suggests that sleep plays a critical role in brain development and formation of neural pathways. Sleep deprivation is also known to negatively impact our learning and performance. It can also lead to harmful health outcomes in the long-term.
The exact answer to "Why do we sleep?" remains unknown. Scientists continue to study the brain and sleep to improve our understanding of this mysterious, yet, essential, daily activity. After all, we spend close to 1/3 of our lives asleep! The optimal amount of sleep varies from person to person, so pay attention to your sleep patterns, the foods and drinks that enhance or disrupt your sleep, and create a comfortable and relaxing environment in your bedroom. Try going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Experiment with light levels, temperature, white noise, and other variables to induce that wonderful great night of sleep we all crave.
For more, visit https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters
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