Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do we sleep?” Good question. (OK, it’s a little “Weekly Reader Science Page” but it beats answering questions about the assorted, odd intimate acts. Seriously? We thought a “Wake Up Call” was just something you left when you were sleeping at a hotel, mmmkay?)
Why do we sleep? We sleep because sooner or later we have to. We sleep because science has proven if we do not sleep eventually it screws us up. Beyond that, there’s little to say since proof is not positive.
Guest speaker Lara Rutherford-Morrison contributor to Bustle confirms that “no one is really sure.” She adds: “There are a lot of theories as to why we have to power down for a third of our days. Joe Hanson, host and creator of It’s OK To Be Smart from PBS Digital Studios, points out that, even if we don’t know precisely what sleep does, we do know that it is absolutely vital: extreme sleep deprivation, for example, has been shown to cause seizures and even death in animals.” (See?)
Scientists do have some common theories though. Still, as Rutherford-Morrison notes: they “don’t fully account for its importance in our lives and health.”
Hanson gives an example. He states that while our bodies go through “general biological upkeep” (like “cellular repair,” “protein synthesis,” and so forth) while we sleep. Ah, but the thing is, this stuff goes on when we are awake as well.
Hanson points out that another theory states we sleep because during sleep our bodies “flush out all the neurogarbage” that accumulates in our neurons and brain cells. (“Neurogarbage”? Is that the title of some band’s new album or something?)
Finally, there is also the theory that claims that we sleep because this is the only chance our prefrontal cortexes get to take a break. (Again though, these are only theories.)
Why do we sleep? Now you know.
(Well, at least now you know more than most people.)
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