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On average, we spend about 33% of our lives sleeping. 25 years out of a 75 year life, completely unconscious laying on a mattress. Pretty remarkable to think about.
Sleep is obviously a necessity. Every living being on earth has to “sleep” in order to function. We all know what it feels like not to have gotten enough sleep. We get groggy, our brains don’t seem to work properly, our bodies are sluggish, and we become irritable. We know very well that we need it, but why?
Why Do We Need To Sleep ?
When we get in our favorite position in bed and close our eyes for that wonderful break we get from life, we go (or are supposed to) through five stages that make up one proper sleep cycle.
Throughout the sleep cycles we generally experience unconsciously, the different parts that make up our organism rest (are not required to respond to external circumstances) in order allow restoration of the energy expended throughout the day.
Everything we do in our lives requires energy. Every bodily movement, every thought, every emotional outburst.
To supply all of our energy requirements, we have different life-sustaining mechanisms that force us to unconsciously re-gather what we need.
You can think of it as the same reason why we eat.
Every couple of hours we get hungry and our body signals us to fill it with nutrients to continue its proper instinctive functioning. Depending on the quality and quantity of what we eat, our energy levels and moods are affected differently.
Feeling tired provides the same utility as feeling hungry or thirsty.
We are being signaled to abide by laws that sustain our lives. And depending on the quality and quantity of sleep we get.. let’s just say there have been many days ruined due to inadequate sleep.
Some of our most important restorative functions occur in sleep such as tissue repair, muscle growth, protein synthesis, and the release of growth hormones.
At the same time, our brain undergoes its own rejuvenation process in sleep by doing a lot of the necessary mental processing and storing of information we’ve perceived throughout the course of a day.
I like to think of it as if we usually interfere with the correct mental processing of information with our subjective additions to what we perceive while we’re awake. At night, without our involvement, our brains and bodies can more efficiently process on its own.
Although research has shown and told us what happens in sleep, different theories for the underlying necessity of sleep are inconclusive. But like gravity, it seems to simply be a law of nature.
Food for thought
Something I find extremely interesting about sleep is the question about what exactly sleeps. When you have a dream, for example, you’re fully aware of what is taking place and take it to be reality for the time being. When you wake up in a dream, your attention is actually there in the dream. But at the same time, “I” am asleep; fully aware of the fact.
Some tips for getting to bed on time and getting adequate sleep!
Get to know your body clock
We all think we know how much sleep we generally need, but if that were true, then why would we snooze three times every morning? You can get to know your body clock really quickly with this simple process:
For one week straight, get to bed at the same exact time and do not set an alarm for the morning. When you wake up, get out of bed and start the day. Write down how much sleep you got throughout the day and how you felt. At the end of just one week, you will have a great idea of how much sleep your body naturally needs as opposed to how much sleep your imagination tells you that you should have.
After you gain insight into the average amount of sleep time you need to feel great upon waking up, use it to determine when you should go to bed, based on when you want to get up in the morning.
No electronics for 30 minutes before bed
The reason people nowadays have so much trouble falling asleep at night is because of all the constant mental stimulation we’re exposed to, and the fact that we no longer associate our bedrooms with sleep alone. Our beds are associated with entertainment, our laptops, T.V., phones, etc. Our brains don’t get the clear cut message that when we get into bed, it’s time to rest.
If you stop using electronics for 30 minutes before you go to bed, and stop using them while in bed, you will quickly begin to form the right associations between your bed and your rest.