Why We Really Need Sleep


Have you ever wondered what science has to say about sleep? Everyone knows sleep is important, and necessary for rejuvenation—in fact, no one could function without it. Still, you may have noticed that you have control over your sleep to a certain extent—what time you go to bed, how long you sleep, and even the time you wake up. The need for sleep in order to have total wellness is not fully understood yet, but there are some theories. According to research at the University of Rochester Medical Center, a certain waste-flushing system of the brain is about 10 times more active when someone is asleep rather than awake—a cleansing process that might be explained by the revitalizing powers of sleep.

You might need sleep for these reasons:

Reduce risk while maximizing efficiency. According to UCLA researcher Jerome Siegel, “all species have times when they need to be active and ones where they don’t, and so you can see species optimizing their periods of inactivity in response to their environment.”

Sleep to outsmart predators. According to the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, an early theory of sleep is inactivity, adaptive or evolutionary theory—which is the idea that sleep allows animals to stay quiet at night in order to avoid becoming prey.

Conserve energy. Harvard Medical School has also suggested that a possible reason for sleep might be the need to save energy—and the drop of calorie expenditure during sleep has been seen as a possible conservation tactic. And according to Scientific American, synaptic homeostasis theory might be a reason—when the brain slows down to save energy and “restore brain circuitry to baseline level of strength.”

Repair and restore the body. According to Harvard Medical School, “many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.” Sleep may also increase the production of cells in the brain that speed up repair if your gray matter becomes injured, according to research. According to Scientific American, the most rejuvenating type of sleep is deep sleep.

Learning. Sleep is vital for development during childhood, memory and learning, which all comes down to brain plasticity. According to Harvey B. Simon, MD, a study in which participants had to complete a memorization task showed that those who took a nap—especially with dreams—had improved performance over the people that stayed awake.

Sleep might not be necessary for only one reason, however. According to the Guardian, “assuming that there is only a single purpose for sleep…ignores the fact that sleep patterns vary wildly across different species, and even between members of the same species.” So while you might not know exactly why you need sleep, you do know it’s vital—so keep dreaming away.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

Image Credit: Nap by susivinh, used under a creative commons license.

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