January 24, 2020

Why do we need sleep?

No, really, Why do we need sleep?

Why do we need sleep? Comprehensive Primary Care

Have you ever thought about how much you could get done if your body didn’t need sleep? Or maybe you’re one of those people who believe you can function well off of only five hours of sleep. Or, perhaps you fall in the camp of people who need to work two jobs to make ends meet and all you can get is four or five hours of sleep a night.

No matter what your situation is, every human body out there needs sleep. And not just a few hours. We’re talking about healthy, adequate sleep. Now we’re sure you’ve all had some friend or relative harping on you to make sure you’re getting your eight hours. But, are they just repeated soundbites they’ve heard on some talk show or old news report? How do you know that the data and science is accurate? What if you really are able to function properly on just a few hours of sleep?

The truth is, we’ve had a lot of this data for years. It’s scientifically proven and the medical community is only becoming more and more convicted about how import sleep is for the human body. You may think you are fine on just those few hours of sleep. And in the short term, you might actually be. You’ll continue to say, “Look at me. I only get four hours a sleep a night and I don’t have any problems.”

But, to quote Top Gun, “Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.”

Despite what you think, it is absolutely vital to get eight hours of sleep each night.

Why Do We Need Sleep?

While our very own Christina Finnerty is an expert herself on sleep, we’ll hear more from her later on. Let’s first ask Dr. Matthew Walker. Oh, you haven’t heard of him? Here’s a modest introduction:

Matthew Walker is a British scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the impact of sleep on human health and disease. Before his role at UC Berkeley, he was a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. On top of all that, he is the founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. He has received a number of awards from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, as well as being a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. He has published more than 100 scientific research studies and has been featured on numerous television and radio outlets, including 60 Minutes, National Geographic, NOVA, The Joe Rogan ExperienceNPR, and the BBC.

Watch his full interview with Joe Rogan below.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand. Why do we need sleep?

According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs. Exactly how this happens and why our bodies are programmed for such a long period of slumber is still somewhat of a mystery. But scientists do understand some of sleep’s critical functions, and the reasons we need it for optimal health and wellbeing.

One of the most important roles of sleep is to help us solidify and consolidate memories. Throughout the day our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored. Much of this occurs while we sleep. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory through consolidation. Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks. Everyone’s body requires long periods of sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.

Now, How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Healthy sleep is critical for every human being. We all need to retain information and learn new skills and proper sleep is paramount to being able to do those things. This is likely why children need more sleep than adults. They acquire language, social, and motor skills at an extremely rapid pace throughout their development. Adults should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Compare that to a one-year-old, who needs roughly 11-14 hours of sleep per night. School-aged children need 9-11 hours while teenagers need between 8-10 hours each night.

However, human beings cannot rack up sleep deprivation and then log a bunch of hours of sleep to make up for it. It’s called “sleep debt” and you just can’t pay it back. The best sleep habits are consistent, healthy routines that allow us to meet our sleep needs every night and stay on top of our daily tasks and challenges.

Christina’s Philosophy

Whether it’s understanding if you suffer from sleep apnea and are in need of a sleep study, or it’s learning how high-quality sleep can help prevent breast cancer, Christina Finnerty is passionate about sleep.

Below are some recommendations from Christina on how to get better sleep:

  • Create a sleep routine
  • Allot 20-30 minutes before bedtime to time to prepare for sleep
  • Absolutely no phones, tablets, or TV while in bed
  • If you’re having trouble falling asleep, get out of bed and try again a bit later

Read Christina’s full article here on our website.

The reason sleep is so important to the human body is because the damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant. It can manifest itself in terrible things such as a car crash or other physical accidents. Or, it can harm you over time without you noticing it as much. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also affects how well you think, react, work, & learn.

So, why do we need sleep?

We need sleep because it’s absolutely essential to our daily function and health as human beings. Does it need to be any more clear than that?

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