Sleep—How Important Is It?

● Current studies show that the average North American now gets between seven and seven and a half hours of sleep a night.* How important is sleep? While asleep, you go through phases of sleep called rapid eye movement every 60 to 90 minutes throughout the night. During these phases, the brain is most active, and researchers believe that it is performing some kind of self-repair. Some experts say that when the sleep cycle is interrupted and sleep is lost, it has a cumulative effect on the body. Brain function is affected, which results in inefficiency and a host of other physical ailments.

Substances such as caffeine can for the short term block the chemical compound that signals the need for sleep. Yet, our brain has a mechanism to cause sleep to occur when our body has not had enough, resulting in what have been called microsleeps. According to The Toronto Star, “no matter what you happen to be doing, your sleep-deprived brain will periodically go into the first stage of sleep for anywhere between ten seconds and just over a minute at a time.” Imagine driving a car at 30 miles an hour and experiencing a ten-second microsleep. During that time, you would have traveled more than the length of a football field. Additionally, sacrificing needed sleep can weaken your immune system, for it is during sleep that the body produces T cells that fight against pathogens. During sleep our body also produces the hormone leptin, which helps to regulate appetite. Indeed, the body needs sleep as much as it needs proper exercise and nutrition.

Is extra work robbing you of much-needed sleep? How about anxieties of life and worries about what you have stored up for the future? The wise King Solomon once observed: “Sweet is the sleep of the one serving, regardless of whether it is little or much that he eats; but the plenty belonging to the rich one is not permitting him to sleep.”—Ecclesiastes 5:12.

[Footnote]

See “Sleep Debt—Are You a Victim?” in the February 8, 2004, issue of Awake!