why do we need so much sleep
Eight hours of sleep a day seems like a colossal waste of time, doesnвt it? After all, in the hectic world we live in, those precious hours could be put to use responding to all those e-mails or hitting the spa. So why do we need so much sleep? Dr. Neil B. Kavey, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, offers some clues:
We don't fully understand the importance of sleep. What we do know is that sleep is an anabolic, or building, process. And we think it restores the bodyвs energy supplies that have been depleted through the dayвs activities. Sleep is also the time when the body does most of its repair work; muscle tissue is rebuilt and restored. We know, for example, that growth hormone is secreted during sleep. This hormone is important for growth in children, but is also important throughout adulthood in rebuilding tissues. Think of the body as a car. No car can keep going and going and going without a tune-up or oil change. If itвs not tuned, the car may keep running, but not as smoothly as it did when it was maintained properly. You can think of sleep as your bodyвs daily tune-up. Human beings can function without a full tune-up, but they will be in a state of relative sleep deprivation and wonвt be able to work or to think as well as they do when they are fully rested. Itвs like an engine that gets only four out of eight spark plugs replaced and then runs sluggishly. Sleep is also a time for restoring mental energy. We spend all day thinking and creating, and that uses up our energy stores. It is interesting that in dream sleep the brain is actually very active. And this is where things get really theoretical. Weвre not really sure exactly what dreams accomplish.
Some experts believe that dreaming is actually some king of clearing-out process. More sleep researchers think that dreams serve the function of helping to reorganize and store psychological information taken in during the day. One of the ways we have of understanding why we need to sleep so much is to look at what happens if we donвt get enough sleep. It affects our personalities and our sense of humor. We may become irritable and less tolerant. Parents of small children often tell me that when theyвre tired they get irritated at the antics of children that might amuse them if they were properly rested. Lack of sleep clearly affects our thinking, or cognitive, processes. A sleep-deprived brain is truly running on four rather than eight cylinders. If weвre trying to be creative, the motor doesnвt work as well. We can perform calculations, but not as quickly. Weвre much more likely to make errors. Itвs because the brainвs engine hasnвt been replenished. Sleep deprivation also affects us physically. Our coordination suffers. We lose our ability to do things with agility. Sleep improves muscle tone and skin appearance. With adequate sleep athletes run better, swim better and lift more weight. We also see differences in immune responses depending on how much someone sleeps. The amount of sleep a person needs will vary from individual to individual. But most people require around eight hours. No one really knows how humans evolved to sleep an average of eight straight hours each night. Factors that influence human sleep patterns probably include our physical size, muscle mass, brain size and the ability to think. В 2013 msnbc. com Society seems to believe that if you sleep more than eight hours you are lazy.
However, there are many of us who simply wouldn t survive on just eight hours a night. I am one of those. I typically sleep 10 or more hours a night, and I m usually in bed for about 12 hours or more a night. I ve always needed more sleep. Growing up I could sleep late even after going to bed early. Mornings were never my friend, but I wasn t really a night owl either. If I did stay up really late I would sleep into the afternoon. I m still that way. I can force myself to wake up with less than 10 hours of sleep but it s not easy and I don t perform particularly well when I do so. Why do some of us need more sleep? Why do I need so much sleep? I sleep longer for the same reason that some people can be perfectly alert and chipper on just four hours of sleep a night. It s genetic. isolated the gene mutation that she believes is responsible for those who can easily get by on just four hours of sleep a night. While they haven t isolated exactly why some of us need 10 or more hours of sleep, there is a name for it. The term is long sleepers, and we make up approximately 2 percent of the population. Although it s referred to as a disorder, there are no negative side effects, unless we don t get the 10 to 12 hours of sleep our bodies crave. Who knows, maybe one day they ll isolate a gene mutation that explains my excessive need to sleep. Long sleeping has been correlated to the introverted personality type. Introverts are easily tired out by interacting with others; so, it s possible that we just need more sleep to handle those interactions. The American Sleep Association advises that we not fight our need for sleep as doing so may cause more issues. Rather we should do our best to live with it. What can we do about it?
There s not much we can do about our need for more sleep since it is hardwired. however, you do have control over your sleep schedule. By going to bed at the same time each night and having a set wake time each morning you can help your body learn to expect the pattern. Our biological clocks (yes, there are more than one) work on patterns and when we go to bed or get up at different times we are messing with those patterns. The best thing you can do is have a set bedtime ritual and go to bed at the same time, and use an alarm to wake you up at the same time. Your body learns these patterns and even if you struggle to fall asleep and lay in bed reading for a while it helps your body learn and adjust to the pattern. Speaking of reading, if you must read in bed get a tablet and set the brightness to low, with white text on a black background. This not only reduces the lighting in your bedroom, it reduces the flicker associated with electronic devices making it easier to fall asleep. You may also want to try taking melatonin two hours before your set bedtime to help your brain send the proper it s time to go to sleep signals to your body. If you haven t always had a need for long sleep, but developed it later in life you should talk to your doctor so that they can check you for other sleep disorders. Long sleep isn t typically found with other sleep disorders, but the need for excessive sleep developed later in life may be a sign of other problems. Don t feel bad about needing more sleep than average. There s a reason they call it average, our need for long sleep just balances out those folks who can get by on four hours. We simply have to work with what we are given and make the best use of the time when we are awake.
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