Why do we need to sleep?

Sleep is a natural state of rest for members of the animal kingdom. Scientists have observed the sleep of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians. Although we are not yet completely sure how sleep works, nor are we convinced that we understand all the functions of sleep, scientists have become convinced that sleep is necessary for survival.

There are several theories about why we sleep and what happens to our bodies and brains during sleep cycles. However, there is currently no prevailing theory. It is quite possible that there is a kernel of truth in each of these theories; that they will all work together eventually to inform a more complete understanding of the human dream.

Most scientists agree that one of the main purposes of sleep is to restore and heal the body. Hormonal and immune functions have been observed to change during specific stages of the sleep cycle. Also, some studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to deficiencies in the immune system. Although some believe that significant growth can take place during sleep, there have been no studies showing that lack of sleep can stop or stop growth.

It has also been hypothesized that sleep offers important restoration of the brain. Neurons may be restored, brain proteins and certain hormones may be produced. Some scientists believe that sleep is particularly important for the brains of young humans. Lack of sleep in the first years of life has led to a decrease in brain mass, permanent problems sleeping and behavioral problems. Although many scientists believe that the main function of sleep is not to restore or improve our memory capabilities, it has been observed that people have an easier time memorizing information if they have had enough sleep than if they do not have enough sleep.

A completely alternative theory to those described above is the "preservation and protection" theory of sleep. This theory states that humans do not require the entire 24-hour period within each day to meet basic needs, such as gathering necessary food and supplies, eating, and reproducing. Since 24 hours are not required, sleep offers a time of rest when humans are not in the elements and therefore exposed to threats. Just as a caveman is less likely to be hit by a jaguar while he is hiding inside his sleeping space, modern man is less likely to be hit by a bus while he sleeps in his apartment. This theory, of course, does not postulate what happens inside our bodies and brains while we sleep.

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