The need to sleep is one of the strongest biological urges we have and one of few that we just can’t control. You could actually die faster from sleep deprivation than food deprivation! The average person spends 25 years of their life asleep, this makes up for about a third of the average person’s life.
So why do we NEED sleep? As humans, we survive by fuelling our bodies with water and calories which essentially, is energy for our body. Sleep is one of the best ways to conserve energy and since much of life is about procuring calories to keep going, sleeping for a third of your day is a smart move! Sleep is also the number one factor for growth. Sleep is when you grow muscle tissue, your cells synthesize proteins, your tissues repair themselves and growth hormones are released.
So you might ask why is this not possible for our bodies to do while we are awake, sitting on the couch watching TV. Well, this is because our brains need sleep just as much as our bodies do. Research suggests that sleep allows the brain to rejuvenate and more importantly re-organize. This theory is known as brain plasticity. We all do and see a lot of different things everyday and we probably would like to remember most but not necessarily everything when we wake up. Brain plasticity theory states that sleep is when our brains replay & store the events of the day. This theory was tested with two sets of volunteers where the first set of volunteers memorized a sequence of patterns in the morning while the second set memorized them in the evening. The morning set had their memories tested 12 hours later without any sleep, whereas the evening group was tested 12 hours later having slept. Results of this experiment showed that the evening group was better at recalling the patterns. So sleep helps reinforce memories, but what about the stuff you don’t want to remember such as the annoying salesman on the radio or the colour of the car that cut you off on the way to work in the morning. Luckily, sleep can help clear out all that excess junk from our brains.
The problem is, most people do not get enough sleep and actually a survey conducted that the average adult gets over an hour less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Bear in mind, teenagers need more! You will be surprised that more than 200,000 car accidents each year are caused by sleepy drivers killing more people than drunk driving!
So why aren’t people sleeping enough? Well there are many reasons for this but for the most part; a lot of people are not in the right environment to sleep. For example, many people prefer to go to bed with their laptop or mobile phone and spend some time on these electronic devices before they actually attempt to sleep. As mentioned above, light releases awake hormones which tricks your body into thinking that you are not sleepy. Another great factor is of course dissatisfaction of the mattress. Many people sleep on a mattress that they do not find comfortable and are rather forcing themselves to sleep. Sleep should be an easy and comfortable process and therefore, it is vital to have the correct mattress for you.
Remember, whatever you do, do NOT sacrifice your sleep!