Sleep is a wonderful and natural restorative. So why don't we get more of it? As a culture, we are pretty sleep deprived. Operating on too little shut eye, unable to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Companies selling sleeping pills and other remedies are getting rich off our inability to shut down at night.
Our culture also makes trouble for us with its time-honored, though erroneous, belief held by many that sleep is for pansies. That if you're sleeping you're not doing anything productive.
We admire that minority that only needs four hours of sleep a night. They are geniuses. The rest of us sleepyheads must be mentally or morally inferior.
We're embarrassed to say we want a nap. Even more embarrassed to say we had one. It should be a matter of pride, but no. God forbid we should appear lazy and have a siesta.
But the fact of the matter is, sleep is not optional even for the ambitious and impatient. Truth is, you have to have a certain amount of sleep or you'll begin to break down. In SO many ways.
So how much sleep is enough? And what does all that laying around unconscious do for us?
Unconscious we may be, but when we sleep we are not doing nothing, my friend.
When we're asleep, our brains are very busy. Neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers of the nervous system, control whether you are sleep or awake. Neurons (nerve cells) in the area of the brainstem inhibit parts of your brain, so that you will stay asleep. Cells increase protein production.
Young adults and children experience a release of growth hormone during deep sleep.
Rest, restoration and revitalization are the order of the day. Or, night.
Your immune system is significantly affected by a lack of sleep, especially when it is over an extended time. Your immune system is less able to resist disease and you don't heal as well or as quickly when you are overtired.
If you're awake for 24 hours without a break, the metabolic activity of your brain is greatly reduced. Your body temperature drops, the white blood cell count in your immune system drops, and so does the release of growth hormone. Your heart rate on the other hand will increase.