Why do we sleep?
We spend a almost third of our lives doing something we hardly understand.
OneLife staff writer
We can all vouch, from personal experience, that when we don’t get enough sleep we’re groggy, rundown, sluggish, and sometimes irritable. Not having enough rest means we find it difficult to make decisions, and we struggle to perform at full capacity – at work, or as a friend, partner or family member.
“Getting enough sleep” has become the holy grail of our society. We continuously claim we need more sleep, yet we’re bent on filling our days to the brim, neglecting the ritual of rest and wondering why we feel so tired.
Make your #onechange
Try using a sleep tracker app or device like Fitbit’s Flex 2 to note down how many hours of sleep you get in a week. If you need more – adjust your bedtime accordingly.
Tossing and turning
For some of us, the struggle for quality shut-eye arises from medical conditions. The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health reports that sleep apnea affects 8 per cent of Australians, while significant insomnia affects 20 per cent, and restless legs affects 18 per cent of adults.
Modern society and learned habits may also play a part in sleep disruption. It’s undeniable that the development of new technologies has marred the quality of our sleep. According to the same survey, a quarter of all adults use the internet most or every night of the week just before bed. These same adults have frequent difficulties sleeping or they struggle to function properly during the day.
This year, the Sleep Health Foundation and Australasian Sleep Association launched a campaign urging us to switch off our devices just one hour before bed in order to feel the difference. According to the associations, the blue light from screens prevents melatonin, the natural hormone that we need to help us fall asleep at night, from being released.
Dr Maree Barnes, the Australasian Sleep Association President, said, “If you are looking at a screen just before going to bed, you are sabotaging your sleep.”
The science of sleep
But here’s the kicker: why we need so much sleep is still unknown, even to scientists who have dedicated their lives to working it out.
What we do know is that sleep is actually an active state. Sometimes, our brains use even more oxygen and glucose when we’re lying in bed at night than they do during the day.
To be able to say that sleep does this in order for the body to that is difficult. What we do know is that when we’re asleep, our bodies relax, we go into a state of repair and our consciousness is partly suspended. In this way, sleep is thought to keep many physical organs healthy – such as the heart – as well as nurture our mental capabilities, helping us do things like store memories and organise thoughts.
Getting an appropriate amount of sleep can also work as a barrier against excessive hunger, stress, sickness and bugs.
Despite there being no scientific proof, we can feel that sleep helps us reboot. ‘Clean sleeping’ (that’s active dedication to regular high-quality, eight-hour rest) has been named 2017’s new ‘clean eating’. Sleep shouldn’t be considered a luxury nor an overindulgence; it’s as essential to the human body as food and water – we wouldn’t survive without it.
OneLife staff writers come from a range of backgrounds including health, wellbeing, music, tech, culture and the arts. They spend their time researching the latest data and trends in the health market to deliver up-to-date information, helping everyday Australians live healthier lives. This is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances. The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as medical, health, nutritional or other advice. You should obtain professional advice from a medical or health practitioner in relation to your own personal circumstances.
The information in this article is general information only and is not intended as financial, medical, health, nutritional, tax or other advice. It does not take into account any individual’s personal situation or needs. You should consider obtaining professional advice from a financial adviser and/or tax specialist, or medical or health practitioner, in relation to your own circumstances and before acting on this information.