To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question
There really isnÃ‚Â’t any question, we, like all mammals must sleep if we are to survive physiologically as well as psychologically. Think back for a moment to Psychology 101, that exploratory course in general psychology that we all took during our freshman or sophomore year at college. Surely you recall Abraham Harold Maslow, the Father of Humanistic Psychology, and his Ã‚Â“Hierarchy of human needsÃ‚Â”? To this very day, I can close my eyes and see his hierarchy as a pyramid displaying human needs progressing from the simple physical needs on the lowest level of the pyramids six levels to the most complicated emotional needs at its apex. Some of the most basic physical needs are sleep, food, water, shelter, oxygen, waste elimination, physical stimulation and sensory stimulation. We need to have all these primary drives met if we are to survive. Sleep is one of the most basic of those primary drives and needs but why do we need sleep to survive? What purpose(s) does sleep serve?
Sleep deprivation affects us on two levels, the physiological level and the psychological level. Most people spend 1/3rd of their lives sleeping. Most people require 8 hours of sleep every night, some require more, some require less. Some people, like my wife, require a minimum of nine or ten hours of solid sleep in order to function while other, like myself, can function quite well on as little as four or five hours a night. For some of us itÃ‚Â’s a matter of conditioning our bodies and minds to function on less sleep. Still, the norm is eight hours of sleep. Everyone can go for varying lengths of time without sleep but longer one goes without sleep the more physically and psychologically impaired they become. The physical symptoms of sleep deprivation are
1)Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The inability to concentrate and pay attention
2)Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The inability to consolidate memories from short term memory into long term memory
3)Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Mood disturbances-irritability, depression, inappropriate anger, etc.
4)Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Impaired judgment, and
5)Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Increased physical reaction time
Adequate sleep is as essential to health and peak performance as exercise and good nutrition (National Sleep Foundation, 2000a) (Editors: Carol A. Rice, 2001).
Just like with the most sophisticate computer systems, our bodies need to go off line on a regular basis for routine maintenance. It is during the time we spend on the mattress that our bodies can most effectively repair and damage done to them and fight off any invading organism. It is during these down that our skeletal and musculature systems as well as our CNS (Central Nervous System) repair themselves.
Besides the physical and psychological problems that I listed above, sleep deprivation can lead to much more serious physical and psychological problems. According to Dr Eve Van Cauter, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, "We suspect that chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory lossÃ‚Â (Editors: Carol A. Rice, 2001)."
So the answer is a resounding yes, sleep is absolutely necessary for every one of us.
Editors: Carol A. Rice, P. R.-H. (2001, January). Sleep. AgriExtension Health Hints , p. 1.