Why Do We Need Sleep? It’s a simple question, but unfortunately, it does not have a simple answer. The riddle of why we sleep is one that scientists have puzzled over and studied for years.
We know what happens when we don’t sleep, and our bodies crave regular sleep, but the truth is, from a physiological point of view, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit in spending a third of of our lives asleep.
If over 50 years of research into the mysteries of sleep has revealed anything at all, however, it is that contrary to popular opinion, the time we spend with our heads on our pillows is anything but passive.
What Happens When We Go to Sleep?
When we fall asleep, we lose self-conscious awareness and are unaware that we are asleep. Therefore, apart from those dreams we’re able to recall, which aren’t after all, any sort of real activity, we have no idea what happens within our brains as we slumber.
We only know that we experience a powerful, primal urge to sleep and that the quality of our lives degrades in direct proportion to any lack of regular sleep that we experience. When we watch another person asleep, we perceive that he or she is asleep, but we truly do not know what that other person is experiencing, or why.
What we do know, we’ve learned from sleep labs in which doctors have attached electrodes to a person’s skull in order to record physical phenomena such as brain waves, rate of respiration, blood pressure, etc. as a person sleeps.
First Stage of Sleep
Although it appears that the amount of sleep each person needs is variable, this type of research has revealed some common patterns. The first stage of sleep is what many people call dozing. It is a twilight state, halfway between waking and sleeping.
Our muscles begin to relax and some people might jerk or twitch sporadically. We would respond quickly to any attempt to wake us at this point in our sleep cycle.
Second Stage of Sleep
After about 10 minutes, we enter the second stage, which lasts for approximately 20 minutes. Our respiration and pulse begin to slow. We will spend the vast majority of our time asleep in this state.
Sleep Stages Three and Four
Stages three and four find us falling into an ever deepening state of unconsciousness. At the third stage, our brains create a high amplitude and low frequency type of brain wave known as delta waves. In the fourth stage our breathing deepens even more and is very rhythmic.
Were someone to awaken us at this point we would feel confused, and very tired. The final stage of sleep is called REM sleep. REM is an acronym that stands for rapid eye movement. Our breath and pulse quicken and our eyes, although still closed, move rapidly back and forth.
It is during this period of sleep, which usually starts after we’ve been asleep for 70-90 minutes, that we experience our dreams. At the conclusion of the REM phase of sleep, we “surface” back to the first stage and the cycle begins anew.
What Happens When We Do Not Sleep – Sleep Deprivation Effects
When we fail to get enough sleep, we get grumpy, are tired, and become forgetful. The longer we go without an adequate amount of sleep, the worse our symptoms become. Our attention spans shorten and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for us to concentrate.
Lack of sleep causes a deterioration in our overall ability to perform both cognitively as well as physically that is similar to that of drinking alcohol. The areas of the brain that are responsible for memory, language, strategizing and also, awareness of the passage of time is significantly impaired.
Much research has determined that persons who are deprived of sufficient sleep frequently are unable to appropriately respond to scenarios that change rapidly and require fast action and/or quick judgment.
That Sleep Deprivation was part of the equation that caused such immense disasters as the the Challenger space shuttle explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown is well documented.
Sleep deprivation has also been a contributing factor in a countless number of automobile accidents.
In addition to affecting our bodies mentally and physiologically, there are Sleep deprivation effects that affect both our physical as well as emotional well being.
For example, sleep apnea, which is a disorder in which people involuntarily cease breathing at night until their lack of oxygen causes them to wake up, is known to cause extreme sleepiness (which is also indicated in many a work place accident) and also, life threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and even obesity.
Sleep is essential not only to our physical and mental health, but also to the quality of our days, which of course, comprise our lives. While we may continue to wonder Why do we sleep for generations yet to come, the importance of Sleep cannot be denied.
On this site, you will find advice and articles on a number of sleep aids, (we are still working on this), including:
- Anti-Snoring Products
- Anti Snore Pillow
- Natural Sleep Supplements (such as Melatrol with Melatonin)
- Mattress Wedges
A Word About the Anti Snore Pillow
Many people reading this article will be looking for sleep solutions. Of course, the solution you need and choose will depend on the root cause of your insomnia. In many instances, the root cause (in up to 30% of Americans) is sleep-apnea (which is associated with heavy snoring) and which requires special CPAP Machines for resolution.
However, many conditions that cause snoring and which are a frequent cause of sleepless nights and unhappy partners, may be dealt with by an anti snore pillow. So what do these do?
In a nutshell, these special pillows:
- Cradles and elevates the head to open up airways
- raises the chin off the chest to reduce snoring
- provides additional support for the neck
- Relieves minor head, neck and shoulder pain
For other anti-snoring advice click on this link.