Why Do Humans Need Sleep to Survive?

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Why Do Humans Need Sleep to Survive?

Although sleep is necessary for your survival, find out what each stage of sleep does for your mind and body.

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Unlike some creatures that don't require sleep (i.e. bullfrogs and dolphins), humans spend 1/3 of their lives sleeping. That's a lot of time and if you're anything like me, you probably wonder why we were designed that way while lying awake in the middle of the night. Although the mystery to that question may only be unlocked once we discover how life came to be, science has revealed how incredibly important sleep is and what it does for us. In fact, you can survive longer without food than you can without sleep. This is why those who have chronic sleep issues typically have shorter life spans.

It is during sleep that our bodies and minds can repair, rejuvenate and detoxify. Our bodies move into energy conservation reducing production of adrenaline. Body temperature reduces which then allows the production of human growth hormones as well as melatonin and sex hormones. The immune system gets a boost with the increased production of certain proteins. This is why we always need rest whenever we are ill.

The 5 Sleep Stages

There are 5 stages of sleep that take approximately 90 minutes to go through. Let's take a brief look at these now:

Stage 1 - This is the phase where you drift in and out of sleep and can easily be awakened. Ever experience those sudden muscle contractions preceded by a sensation of falling? Next time that happens you'll know you're in the initial stages of sleep.

Stage 2- The brain waves slow down and eye movements cease.

Stage 3- Brain waves slow down even more and you enter what is considered "deep sleep".

Stage 4- This is another stage of deep sleep where there are no muscle or eye movements. A person is difficult to wake at this stage. If they are awakened, a person may feel disoriented and feel quite groggy.

Stage 5 - This is also known as the "R.E.M." or "rapid eye movement" phase. Breathing becomes rapid, shallow and irregular. Eyes jerk significantly but limbs are temporarily paralyzed.

Stages of Healthy Sleep

Stages of Healthy Sleep

5 Things Your Brain Does While You Sleep

1-Cleans out toxins - Science has shown that the space between brain cells increases during sleep which allows the brain to flush out toxins.

2-Creative connections - Sleep can be a powerful creativity booster allowing for new connections to be made that it wouldn't have made during the waking state. These connections can sometimes lead to epiphanies during the awake moments.

3-Create and consolidate memories - During sleep, the brain is busy forming new memories as well as consolidating older ones. In other words, it helps to cement the new information for better later recall.

4-Learning and remembering how to perform physical tasks - The brain stores information into long-term memories. During R.E.M. sleep, the brain transfers short-term memories stored in the motor cortex to the temporal lobe where they become long-term memories. This is where motor task such as driving or typing become automatic.

5-Make decisions - The brain processes complex stimuli during sleep and uses this information to make decisions while awake.

stages of sleep

Stages of Sleep

To read more detailed information on this topic, click here.

While we may have touched on the scientific reasons why we sleep, I still wonder if there isn't a deeper explanation why we spend 1/3 of our lives in an unconscious state.  I have my own thoughts on the subject but would love to hear yours.  Please click on the "Contact" button and let's discuss!

For more information on the topic of sleep, these are articles you may be interested in reading:

The Better Sleep Guide

What Happens When You Sleep

How Much Sleep do you actually need?