People with busy schedules may ask themselves, "why do we need sleep" as they wish for more time in their hectic lives. But sleep is an essential human function and without the proper amount of rest, individuals may find themselves nodding off at inappropriate times. Lack of sleep can also keep people from feeling and doing their best.
Sleep occurs during a natural 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. Adults generally need seven to eight hours of uninterrupted nighttime sleep, and recent studies indicate less sleep than that can cause daytime sleepiness so severe that it interferes with productivity.
While a few nights of lost sleep does little harm, prolonged periods without rest, known as insomnia, can cause health problems, including immune disorders. Lack of sleep inhibits the body's production of cells necessary for resistance to disease.
Sleeplessness can be caused by stress, physical illness, lifestyle changes, chronic pain, irregular work patterns, and many other reasons.
For example, an inability to get a good night's rest could result from poor sleeping habits, such as going to bed at odd hours. Sleep patterns are very individual and some people are easily disturbed; studies have indicated even electric blankets may disrupt sleep for some.
Sometimes sleep can be restored by changes in lifestyle or by natural sleep aids such as calcium and magnesium or with oils of chamomile, lavender, neroli, rose and marjoram added to bathwater or otherwise inhaled.
Always talk with your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping. He or she may suggest relaxation techniques, therapy options, and/or may prescribe sleep aids for chronic problems.
Answering the question, "why do we need sleep" has kept scientists busy for decades. Sleep studies have determined that a natural chemical compound called adenosine plays a role in the desire for sleep.
This chemical builds up in the blood when people are awake but dissipates at night. It is thought that a build-up of this chemical is part of the reason why specific amounts of sleep are necessary.
Additionally, scientists have learned that sleep has multiple stages. During deep sleep, the body recharges and prepares itself for the upcoming day.
Sleep stages, including the one in which dreams occur, are still being studied so that scientists can understand exactly why sleep is necessary.
Scientists do know that without the proper amount of sleep, people are more prone to accidents, more likely to be obese and have diabetes and heart problems, more likely to be depressed, and more prone to memory problems.
So, why do we need sleep? Optimal health and the time to give the body a chance to regenerate and renew are the obvious answers. While we may not wish to have to go to bed, a good night's rest is the best start to a great day.
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