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Why Do We Sleep – A Lesson to Learn


By with 43 comments
a girl wondering why do we sleep

Have you ever wondered about why do we sleep? You might wonder what kind of question is this.

Sleeping is something that we all do by default, everyday – isn’t it? No questions asked, as we take it for granted.

And, so it is. Sleeping is our natural behavior, and in fact, we sleep for about one-third of our lives!

But on the other hand, everybody has an idea about why we sleep. By sleeping we rest our body and brain. We sleep to overcome our tiredness and to get refreshed.

Sleep is important for our health. I spent some time researching about sleep and got to know many other facts that answered my question – “Why do we sleep?”

Why Do We Sleep

We sleep because it’s a habit, right? It is something that we’re conditioned to do since we’re born.

Well, it’s more than a habit. Sleep is a necessity, just like drinking and eating. We cannot function properly without sleeping.

Our body needs rest after a certain time, which is determined by the natural body clock and rhythm.

Sleep is also the time when our brain organizes information, and carries out the required neuro-chemical processes.

The brain also orders the release of maintenance, repairing, and growth concerning hormones. It instructs the nervous system to make an assessment of the body.

Sleeping is like putting up the ‘under maintenance’ notice on our blogs while we try to change its settings and layout in the background.

Sleep is a restorative, adaptive, and preservation process. The brain keeps working even after we sleep.

Our brain uses this time to do what we can best associate with the housekeeping tasks of our computer.

It deletes the cache memory, gets rid of unnecessary mental processes and tasks.

The brain further defragments, sorts, and organizes our memory according to its nature, to make it easily accessible at a later given time.

So, that is why we can recall things better after we’ve had a good night’s sleep. Even a short daytime power-nap helps our brain to reorganize itself.

The brain and the body make use of this opportunity to repair the damaged cells and networks, assess the day’s activities and the processes involved to make them useful.

Our brain needs a peaceful time without any interruptions to carry out these tasks, which happens only when we sleep, and that is why we sleep.

So, next when we feel refreshed after waking up from our sleep, it means our brain and body did their housekeeping tasks quite well!

But, if we don’t feel fresh and still have flurry of thoughts pinging and bouncing in our head, it means our brain couldn’t get the opportunity to work at its best because our mind was still active.

Well, well. We considered the body and the brain, but we neglected the mind.

sleep button

Why Don’t We Mind the Sleep

Our mind has no physical existence in the body, and it is different from the brain. Modern science defines mind as the element that makes us reason, feel, think, will, judge, perceive, etc.

Mind is also known as the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities that direct and influence our mental and physical behavior.

Our attitudes, perceptions, and persona are all associated with our mind. It is our mind that defines us and makes us feel and think what we are.

Our mind is the creator of our ego – the consciousness of our identity. Our mind is the creator of all worries, tensions, anxieties, and fears.

When we experience good sleep, the mind also sleeps.

When our mind sleeps, our ego also sleeps. We lose the consciousness of our identity and forget ourselves.

When we sleep, we don’t experience any worry or fear. If our mind is totally inactive and dormant, we experience peace. We’re happy.

But our body and the brain are active doing their housekeeping jobs.

However once our mind is active during sleep, we’re restless, have dreams, and don’t feel refreshed when we wake up.

That is why sleep is called the state of reduced or absent consciousness.

Types of Sleep

Though science still does not have a definite answer to why do we sleep, but modern research has given us an insight into what sleep is about.

There are two basic types of sleep – rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM).

Non-REM is the state of deep sleep in which our mind is at rest. We dream during the REM sleep when our mind is active. The REM and non-REM sleep occur in regular cycles when we sleep.

The longer the non-REM sleep, the better sleep we’ve and better we feel when we wake up.

Conclusion

To give proper rest to our body and brain, we need to sleep daily at regular intervals and for a sufficient period.

Generally adults are okay with 7 to 8 hours of sleep, which gives enough time to the body and brain to complete their work and upkeep our health.

We should also adopt healthy eating and sleeping habits. We need to know what to do and what not to do before going to sleep.

Also, we need to keep our mind calm and clear before we go to sleep so it is not disturbed by useless thoughts and worries.

I believe that apart from the physical and mental health reasons and benefits, our sleep gives us an everyday lesson to observe and a hidden meaning to discover.

We come to practically experience and know that all our life’s problems start and end with the mind.

Absence of mind in fact gives us peace and happiness – the tranquility that we’re searching for all our life.

Mind is not bad, but if we can control or tame it, we can experience the peace and happiness even while we’re awake that we do when we’re in deep sleep.

Of course, we need to meditate to learn mind control and not try to achieve it by sleeping more. :) Our mind contributes greatly to our better health.

I hope you can now understand why do we sleep and what is the most important lesson that we learn.

Over to You –

What do you think – why do we sleep? Do you believe controlling the mind helps you in any way?

 

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos


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About Harleena Singh

Harleena Singh is a positive thinker and a freelance writer. She loves to write inspiring and thought provoking posts on self-improvement, family, relationships, health, and other aspects of life. She's not another personal development guru, but just an average person with great life experiences. She's also a blogger, who loves to share her blogging knowledge and experiences. Network with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+..

43 Comments

  1. Corina Ramos

    February 20, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Hi Harleena,

    This is a great explanation of what sleep does for our brain. I’ve always heard sleeping is a way to refuel the body and as you so cleverly put it “Sleeping is like putting up the ‘under maintenance’ notice on our blogs while we try to change its settings and layout in the background.”

    I’ve also wondered why I don’t dream so much and now I understand so it’s definitely a sign I’m resting my mind during my sleep which is surprising considering I often don’t get the required number of hours of sleep as I should.

    Interesting post Harleena, thanks for sharing this with us :) Have a wonderful day.

    • Profile photo of Harleena Singh

      Harleena Singh

      February 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Corina,

      I thought this time I’d write less of my mind and more about some facts of knowledge. However, I did end up giving my piece of mind at the end. Lol. :)

      Well said – “Sleeping is a way to refuel the body.” I’ve neglected my sleep many times before not really realizing how important it is to our mind and body, and I’m sure many still do that. I believe it’s in our best of interest to not skip sleeping.

      Yes, you surely must’ve a peaceful and tamed mind that allows you to enjoy deep sleep. Do you know that even a few hours of deep sleep are sufficient for the brain and body to revamp and refresh your body? So, you need not worry about statutory 7-8 hours of hours of sleep, as far as your mind is quiet and you enjoy deep sleep for whatever hours you sleep. :)

      I’m glad you like the post. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views. Have a good night. :)

  2. Bren

    February 20, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Cool post Harleena! I never thought about “why” we sleep. I assumed it’s one of those natural things a body does. According to the types of sleep, I must spend a lot of time in REM because I dream up a storm, every night and can remember em. I hear as a woman goes into menopause it’s very important she get her sleep, however due to other things (ie., hot flashes) she may not be able to get the correct amount. Thank goodness for melatonin! :)

    • Profile photo of Harleena Singh

      Harleena Singh

      February 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Bren,

      I’m happy that you liked my post. Yes, lot of work happens during our sleep naturally and sometimes we take it for granted, isn’t it? I just wanted to convey that sleep is important, and if we know why we sleep, maybe we can facilitate its purpose by adopting habits.

      Yes, you’re right. Sometimes the biological processes that happen with age do hamper your sleep and disturb your mind. And, of course, how can we forget the ‘Dracula of hormones’ – melatonin! It is very much responsible for inducing sleep but in the end it depends on whether your mind is at rest or not if you wish to have a good night’s sleep.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing important information about why we sleep. :)

  3. Mary Stephenson

    February 20, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Hi Harleena

    Good explanation of sleep. As far back as I can remember up until the time I had a kid, I could sleep a very long time. Ten hours or more a night if they let me. After said child, I have rarely had a good night’s sleep. She has been out of the house years ago, so it is no longer relevant to why I can’t sleep for long stretches of time. Thank goodness for cat naps! Even when there has not been a care in the world, my mind is working overtime, although I have had a few good night’s sleep, just not enough. Maybe what I need is a very dark sound proof room. Then again I wonder if I have used up my sleep quota years ago. lol

    Very well researched, thanks.

    Mary

  4. Sapna

    February 20, 2013 at 9:22 am

    HI Harleena Di

    Great post!

    Awesome analogy of sleep with the computer cache, a complete techie stuff.The real take away – when Mind sleeps ego sleeps. I wonder more than half of the world should be sleeping the entire day, better for other half.

    Sleeping refreshes us and gives back the requisite amount of energy to help get back to work and at times it clears the hard disk memory as well, it helps us to loose sight of some of bad unforgettable moments of life as well.

    Last Sunday I was watching movie 3 idiots, where the professor was takes a 7.5 minute of power nap, and I think that really helps. I didn’t have experience of such power naps but does it work?

    Thanks for sharing this Di.

    Sapna

  5. Betsy / Zen Mama

    February 20, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Harleena,
    I love sleep! So loved this post! I’ve gone through a number of years where I up with worry in the middle of the night nearly every night. Now that I’m sleeping again, I feel revived and much more happy. Instead, I wake up earlier very morning and have my coffee and talk with my family before getting ready for work. Thanks for all the great information!!

  6. Evelyn Lim

    February 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Hello Harleena, you have got a nice site. I have been enjoying some of the articles you have written.

    I tried to cut down on sleep but I realized that no matter how much I would like to reduce the number of hours, I simply could not. And so it is 7-8 hours for me,

    As much as I can, I hope to stick to regular hours. Yes, sleep is vital! I become cranky when I do not have enough!

  7. Lisa

    February 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Sleep is something I don’t get enough of and I hardly ever dream. I must be a short non-rem sleeper. Great info Harleena on why we do need to sleep. Something we don’t give much thought to unless you have many sleepless nights. Been there – done that and it’s miserable. Difficult to function on no sleep.

  8. Kapil

    February 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Hi Harleena!

    I’m reading this in a somewhat sleepy state so perhaps this is social proof at it’s best :) I sleep in order to function at an optimal level each day, after all, being humans (and not computers), we need to shut down at a certain point in the day. Whether we need 7-8 hours of sleep a day is questionable as research has found 5 hours is sufficient for the human body, but hey I’m an advocate for 7 hours of sleep a day). Again, great topic and valuable insights especially from your readers.

  9. Jens P. Berget

    February 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Very interesting question Harleena. I have thought about it, and my answer would be that we need rest to keep us going, it’s like charging our batteries. It’s very interesting to see how different people are when it comes to sleep. Some people hardly sleep at all, while others need close to 10 hours a day. I usually sleep 5-6 hours a day, and maybe about 8 during the weekend :)

  10. Mayura

    February 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    Wow… I feel like reading about a computer when I hear terms cache memory and defragment ;) Love this post dear. A question to ask ourselves :)

    I had no idea of REM and Non-REM :) I’d love to read more about ‘em with the facts about dreaming too dear. Shall we have a vote? :D lol… I just woke up after 4 hours of sleep and I feel it’s better I take extra 4 hours tonight. However I used to lack of sleep, but health is in my concerns.

    Controlling mind is very tricky Harleena :) Don’t we all feel that? Now we can see many people interested in controlling their minds in different ways. People with complex lives need it the most. I think people working from home are kinda fortunate. Not everyone though :)

    One question for you Harleena :) Now you have mentioned if we dream, we might feel not refreshed after waking up. Did you experience that or it’s depends? :) I rarely dream, but to be honest I don’t remember feeling restless. However I’m curious enough to recall what I’ve dreamt during the sleep ’cause I remember only a part of it which comes to my mind right after waking up.

    Cheers…

  11. Mosam Gor

    February 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Harleena ma’am

    Great Post!

    Thanks For this Informative Post! i like to Sleep! thanks For Sharing this Great Information! :)

    Mosam

  12. Hiten

    February 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    I really found your post useful as I learnt a number of things about the process of sleep, which I wasn’t aware of before. In particular, I enjoyed learning about the processes the brain carries out when we sleep.

    About your question regarding taking control over the mind, I believe every person is doing themselves a great service by learning how to do this, even a little bit. Otherwise the ego will just play havoc and of course this will affect things like the quality of sleep that we have.

  13. Debbie

    February 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    This is good Harleena. It is something that we do everyday with out giving it a thought.

    When i go to sleep, i like to think good thoughts. I do know that if something is really bothering me that I can talk in my sleep. Hubby can alway tell when he needs to ask me, “Are you Ok.”

    Thanks for doing the research, so we can learn more about our sleeping habits. I do know that I need those 7 to 8 hours every night. My days are much better and I get more done.

    Debbie

  14. Praveen Rajarao

    February 20, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    My favorite topic – sleep. I just love it, give me some spare time and I take a quick power nap :-)

    I did know that there is a whole lot of “refresh” and “reset” happening during our sleep, but this post added more perspective to my thoughts. It can really energize you and prepare you for the day to come am sure.

    Thanks for the share.

  15. Donna Merrill

    February 21, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Thank you Harleena!

    I knew we had to sleep for some of the reasons, but you have given me a better understanding of the many things that go on during our sleep that I didn’t know….Thanks!

    I have “sleep issues” – It is difficult for me to fall asleep. So what I do is relax my muscles from head to toe. Focusing on each one and commanding it to relax. Then, when all that is done, I think about pleasant things. Whenever I do this, I can go into a deep sleep and wake up refreshed.

    Because of my sleep issues, I have found for myself that it has a lot to do with diet; what foods we eat, if we eat too late, etc. And of course, those good old hormones. I have linked my sleeping issues to the hormonal imbalance due to menopause and peri-menopause. That’s when my sleeping issues started.

    So what’s a gal to do? After researching for myself, I found that using wild yam cream (topical ointment) had reduced the hormonal imbalance thereby giving me a better night’s sleep.

    So there you have it…my thoughts on sleep vs. non sleep!

    Donna

  16. Jackie

    February 21, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Sleep is definitely the “reset” button for our minds. It has been used as a device of torture to make people stay awake, it can cause serious mental issues. I think parents fail to realize how much sleep children need, and make sure they get it. Sleep is really really important to the brains of growing children… as well as adults.

  17. Nadeem Khan

    February 21, 2013 at 2:20 am

    A well written post Harleena, it was really interesting to read !

  18. Reeja

    February 21, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Great post on Sleep.
    Mind is not a part of Brain.
    Really informative post.
    Cheers

  19. Brown Williams

    February 21, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Hi Harleena
    Having enough sleep is food for the body, brain and mind. Sleep not only allows the brain organize its memory but also it allows the entire body heal and rejuvenate its worn out cells. During deep sleep, the skin metabolic rate speeds up and many cells are produced. The dead cells are displaced and shed off leaving behind a brand new beautiful skin.
    Great post!

  20. Annie Andre

    February 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I agree with Jens comment above. People brains are like batteries. Some people have big batteries and need a lot of sleep 10 hours.
    Other people need less.
    All I know is if I don’t get enough sleep I cant be creative I can’t do things I can’t function. I am grouchy.

    One of my son’s is a terrible bear if he doesn’t sleep enough. Sleep is so so important to s positive state of mind.

  21. Evan

    February 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Have you watched the movie Inseption? I was really impressed by it. It is quite a true version of sleep and how it may influence us… Thanks for the post! As always brilliant!

  22. B k chowla

    February 21, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Eating and sleeping are two similar habits…..both go by the body clock movement.
    However,the creator had decided on the need for sleep or else why would HE have created day and night.
    Why would HE have created various time zones?…..Time difference between Australia, India and US is a very intriguing,isn’t it.

  23. babanature

    February 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Hello Harleena,
    Sleep is a natural phenomenon which we all must perform willingly or unwillingly. Without sleep, you’ll never function well in life. We need sleep to keep us alive and healthy and fresh. In essence; sleeping is life.

  24. Adrienne

    February 21, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    You come up with the most interesting takes on certain topics. Now when I read this title I thought what does sleep have to do with learning lessons. It’s a natural part of our lives.

    I watched a show last week though about people who have sleeping disorders so I was very fortunate I’ve never had an issue with that before. As my Mom use to say, “that girl can sleep”.

    But it is a time to refuel our bodies and I know for a fact that if you don’t get the right nourishment for our bodies and sleep the allotted amount of time it can make us sick. I inherited that from my Dad I’m afraid. I need eight hours of sleep each night.

    Thank you though for explaining why it’s important and how it can benefit us. Maybe those people who love to stay up all night long and function on just a few hours of sleep with benefit from what you’ve shared with us today.

    ~Adrienne

  25. Ash

    February 22, 2013 at 1:51 am

    Hi Harleena,

    I saw your comments around on other bloggers and decided to check your blog out. I subscribed to your mailing list!

    I love getting sleep, however I am deprived of it whenever I’m working on my blog! I’ve been struggling with traffic so I’ve been all out late at night trying to drive traffic.

    After reading this post it has made me think about “why” we need sleep. The benefits over the long term are probably better than the ones in the short term!

  26. Shalu Sharma

    February 22, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Very fascination concepts. Most of us sleep but never think why we actually do it. Now I know. It makes sense that we sleep to rest the mind and body. Seems as if its an evolutionary thing and is something that we need to do in order to survive. Wouldn’t it be nice not to sleep, imagine how much work we can get done then.

    • Matthew Denos

      April 26, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Shalu,

      Nice to see you. I had the same thought. Imagine how much time we could use for productive purposes if we slept 2 hours less. Most people sleep 8 hours. Could we sleep only 6 hours and be fine? I have a friend who sleeps only 4-5 hours. His wife sleeps 8 hours. So, he gets up at 4am and he feels great. I asked how come he can rest with only 5 hours of sleep time. He said that, unlike his wife, when we decides to sleep he FORGETS and leaves behind all his problems, concerns, and worries. So, he sleeps “like a bird”, as we say in Greece. What a gift that is! Being able to sleep without thinking about your problems or anything.

  27. Michael Belk

    February 22, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Great topic Harleena. When I first heard of REM I was disgusted because I did not understand it and I was tired.

    The thing about the body, it will force us to catch up and unfortunately sleep is not like a bank account you can make a deposit when you want to.

    You are asking some interesting questions.
    Good work.

  28. Sylviane Nuccio

    February 22, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Hi Harleena,

    Wow, I finally made it here! What a busy week for me.

    I really enjoyed this post and you haven’t missed a thing about sleep.

    Yes, imagine that! we sleep one third of our life. It’s said that during an average life we sleep some 21 years. That’s a lot, isn’t it?

    But as you mentioned we wouldn’t be able to even function without sleep. Our body, brain and as you said ever our mind are at rest when we sleep.

    Then sleep induces dreams which are also vital for our health and sanity.

    Whether we like it or not, we wouldn’t even be able to function without sleep. When I lack sleep I’m a mess :) I really need my sleep, and I’m actually going to bed right now :)

    Thanks for a great post!

  29. Hossain

    February 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Wow what a sleep! Sorry what a nice article. We sleep because we need to sleep. Many people loves to sleep because they loves dreams. I don’t know you believe it or not, but the dreams is an extra satisfaction of mind of a human life. Some dreams are painful and some are symbol of hope.

    This is a very interesting subject to discuss. Thanks for sharing..

  30. Koundeenya

    February 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hey Harleena!

    That’s really an informative post.

    I never knew that there’s so much behind sleeping. I was thinking, we sleep because we need rest from the daily routine and even our mind needs some rest from the random useless thoughts which go on for the entire day.

    There’s so much to learn from this. These days, I’m sad to say that I lack sleep. I have my daily routines in the day session and as I got to write for my blogs and clients, I usually work in the nights. So I think, before I go to the non-REM sleep, morning wakes me up. I should really take a break.

    Thanks for sharing such an awesome article.
    Have a great weekend.

  31. Dakota

    February 23, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Excellent Harleena!

    Now please tell my Dad that teenagers need more sleep than adults:) Not getting enough sleep usually hits me worst an hour or so before I go to sleep. I crash pretty quick.

  32. Carolyn

    February 23, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Hi Harleena, Great topic!

    Sleep is essential, as you point out, but so few people take it seriously. To answer your first question, yes, I’ve wondered about that since I was a child. When I was little I told my parents that sleep was a waste of time so I wasn’t going to sleep anymore.

    After I had twins that prediction nearly came true. I then discovered how essential sleep was and what happened when you didn’t get it. Not fun.

    Thanks for this great article reminding us of the vital importance of sleep, Harleena!

  33. Ahsan

    February 23, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    Another knowledgeable post on why we sleep. Definitely sleep gives us new spirit to work in full force. Have a nice day :)

  34. Aditya

    February 24, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Sleeping is good but sleeping at the right time is what matters. The brain heavily relies on sleep and oxygen for it’s health and any tiny change of balance in either of them can cause havoc in our lives and I’ve personally experienced it when I was going through a depression, my sleep schedule was awry and I do face a few consequences of that to this day.

    I’m so glad you’ve highlighted such an important topic that is often overlooked.

    Aditya

  35. Rohit Langde

    February 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Harleena, You have answered it completely in a geeky way.. “Deletes the cache memory, defragmentation, processes and tasks” :)

    Sleep is really a powerful thing. You can actually hack your brain to be more productive if you know fundas of Sleep Cycle. I would recommend reading Dustin Cartis’ page for this: dustincurtis.com/sleep.html

    Well, I was little curious about sleep cycles, tried various ways to keep track of it. One of my recent tests include use of Sleep as Droid app which takes care to wake you up in light sleep to guarantee Fresh mornings. You can check my review on it.

  36. Kulwant Singh

    March 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Nice article on sleep .

    Well I like to sleep a lot specially int he mornings when my mom comes and asks me to wake up . :)

  37. Krisca Te

    April 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I LOL-ed and whoa-ed at the part when you mentioned about sleep deleting cache memory. I know sleep helps the brain recuperate from the activities of the day and this helped me understand the whole picture of its importance when you pointed this out. It\’s such a relief to know that the unnecessary part is removed. Whew!Good stuff! :)

  38. Matthew Denos

    April 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I sleep 8 hours and I feel great. Here is what I have noticed. The more time I sleep before midnight the better the quality of my sleep. It’s as if the hours before midnight count more! Anybody with this experience? So, my ideal sleep time is 10pm-6am.

  39. Shan Naqvi

    June 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Hello Harleena,

    You have distributed a wonderful factor with us. I have few questions – what do you say about resting in day and evening time? What do you say is it also excellent like night. How many hours we should must sleep?

  40. JAY

    August 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Harleena,

    Its Jay again. Nice article.
    For me sleeping is nothing but a way to replenish and regenerate energy to carry out and deals with new challenges that will come across me next day.

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