Why Do we Need to Sleep?
Sleep is the primary way for our brain and body to restore and recover. Sleep is not simply doing nothing while unconscious. It's an amazingly complex physiological process and a lot of interesting things happen while we sleep. In our deepest sleep, which is predominant in approximately first four hours of the night, biological restitution takes place and damage to cells and tissues is repaired. This is the time when our bodies renew the energy.
Mental restitution happens in lighter sleep, when we dream (more of that in the second half of the night). This is when our mental resources are restored and the brain processes the information it received during the day. In fact, while you sleep, your brain is solving the puzzles you've been working on during the day. You might have experienced that after you've slept, you have the solutions you were struggling to get the day before, right in front of you.
The effects of insufficient sleep on our brain are rather evident to anyone who has ever underslept (which is probably everyone). Poor concentration, slow reaction time, we become forgetful and irritable. We make mistakes that in some cases lead to serious accidents.
What is less obvious is the detrimental effects of reduced sleep on our physical health. It has now been demonstrated in numerous studies that short and disturbed sleep adversely affect our immune system, increase risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and make it harder to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Did you know, for example, that getting enough sleep could be an essential ingredient of a weight loss or smoking cessation project?
It may sometimes be tempting to reduce sleep. You may feel like you have too much to do to afford eight hours in bed. But think about those eight hours as an investment. If you want to invest into your well-being and health, and also into your productivity, creativity, as well as safety, you need to make good sleep your priority.