Sure, sleep when you’re dead, but you won’t know itInfo VisualArms
There’s much that has yet to be discovered about sleep, and while we understand it rather comprehensively, it remains difficult to explain how sleep relates to our conscious experience. That obscurity might discourage us from taking sleep seriously as a viable health practice. There are many distractions that make getting adequate sleep harder to achieve. Unfortunately, positive cultural influence on sleep is virtually nonexistent. However, as health and wellness become greater priorities within society, it seems inevitable that sleep will become more persuasive as a means of achieving wellness equilibrium.
The science of sleep
Sleep architecture defines what sleep is, and how it is optimally achieved. There are biological processes initiated by the brain under optimal conditions that form sleep architecture. For example, sleep is aided by an intuitive biological clock tracked by the brain called circadian rhythm, which responds to environmental conditions – particularly to the presence of light. It also dictates hormonal behavior during sleep. The length of sleep necessary varies, but most people need seven to eight hours in order to adequately accommodate the sleep cycle. This process is comprised of more than a few cycles of various sleep stages. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) are the types of stages undergoing during sleep. It is during NREM sleep that the brain begins to synthesize chemicals, repair cells, and optimize neuronal functioning and pathways. These processes continue during REM sleep.
Sleep has health implications
This insight isn’t obvious. While diabetes and heart disease are not directly correlated with a bad night of sleep, they are compatible with multiple nights of inadequate sleep. Moreover, much like how we approach dietary and exercise measures, a composite of consistent behavior that accommodates ideal sleep over a period is imperative to holistic wellness. Moreover, sleep deprivation has a myriad of health implications that interferes with adaptive performance and behavior in everyday life. Despite all of that, many of us lead lifestyles that fail to accommodate the need for adequate rest. That is probably both a cause and consequence of a lack of cultural precedent regarding sleep.
Why you should care
Our culture does not accommodate our need for sleep. An example that illustrates that is encapsulated by the crass cliché “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” an ignorant and maladaptive sample of wisdom that neglects to acknowledge the holistic nature of wellness. That saying seems to suggest that sleeping is both unimportant, and comparatively less necessary than other conditions of being– which is disingenuous. There are ample fascinating psychological theories that might explain our collective inability to foster a value for sleep. Perhaps we perceive sleep as anti-social, and therefore cultivate a negative connotation. Might the notion of being unconscious be unsettling to those of us who fear the unknown, and ultimately death? A more objective theory acknowledges the ambiguity in our scientific literature about sleep that translates to mainstream culture, which makes it difficult to form dependable narratives that we might find meaningful or relatable. Regardless, it is unhelpful that cultural sleep wisdom is comprised of countermeasures, not proactive methods and solutions.
Manifest implications of sleep architecture
The neural chemical reactions during the sleep cycle have real-life consequences. During both sleep stages, the brain undergoes processes that inform the quality of many sensations we experience in our waking state. These include creativity, memory, problem solving, awareness, recollection and emotion. Those sensations are energy dependent, and energy is synthesized and stored in the brain. When we aren’t preoccupied by being conscious, the brain can effectively use and save energy during sleep to perform neurological housekeeping. Perhaps that is the reason we might feel refreshed after a period of adequate sleep. The brain needs the ability to restore itself, considering it uses the most energy of any organ in the body. During sleep, energy is preserved, nutrients and hormones are synthesized, and toxins are removed from the central nervous system.
There are many ways that we can help ourselves sleep better. While agency is limited during sleep, we can facilitate ideal conditions for ourselves both prior and subsequent to sleeping. Sleep has an ideal ecosystem that is achieved through alterations to one’s environment, which creates an internal body condition that facilitates it. For instance, heart rate needs to slow down, internal body temperature needs to decrease, and energy needs to be preserved. These can be achieved by avoiding strenuous, adrenalizing activity, and by avoiding eating beforehand. Sleep is also promoted by creating consistent sleeping conditions every night, whereby the integrity of our internal clocks is maintained.
Napping is also a reasonable solution to lost sleep because it is objectively preferable to achieve more sleep than less. Napping can resolve certain behavioral and cognitive issues associated with sleep deprivation, unlike conventional stimulants which tend to temporarily fend off drowsiness. It’s important to note that some individuals who consistently experience inadequate sleep might have a sleep disorder. A common disorder such as insomnia can probably be resolved through alterations to an individual’s habits and behaviors. Otherwise, sleep disorders such as parasomnias and sleep apnea might require medical or psychological intervention.
Evolution and sleep
What might happen if we become accustomed to inadequate sleep to such an extent that sleep related disorders become a norm that we must adapt to? It might be argued that we have already begun that process by through the consequences of ineffectual sleep. So, that rather dystopian future scenario doesn’t seem a stark deviation from our current societal trajectory.
It’s mysterious to wonder what would happen if sleep were to be eliminated from human experience. If we were to survive, which seems unlikely, life would be fundamentally different. In fact, we would probably need to evolve a new means of coping with the process of living, which seems impractical. There would be profound biological fallout if we didn’t sleep. In addition to a depletion of energy allocation and conservation, the ability of the brain to instigate other essential bodily functions would be incapacitated. It’s also probable that there would be an increase in mental illness, among other afflictions.
It’s strange that sleep is often taken for granted considering how significant it is to our health. Imagining a scenario where sleep doesn’t exist might serve as a forewarning about our current course. Despite our best efforts to ignore it, we cannot live without sleep. There are many widespread societal and cultural trends that have proven to be correlated with a lack of adequate sleep. For example, both the accessibility and contents of technology have arrested our time and attention away from sleep. In addition, many of us are increasingly bored and distracted, and mental illness is more prevalent. It’s indisputable that a lack of sleep is an active and probably malicious variable in relation to many of these scenarios, especially considering the role sleep plays in emotional regulation.
Adequate sleep has never been harder for us to achieve than it is today. Existence is more complicated than it used to be, and it is in constant competition with sleep as a result. That conflict is bolstered by an ignorant and unhealthy societal and cultural antagonism toward sleep. The consequences of inadequate sleep are reflected in many problems in society, especially relating to mental health. Addressing sleep needn’t be complicated, and it would certainly reflect an overall improvement in our health. So, what might it take for our culture to take sleep seriously? An impediment to our understanding sleep better might be that we assume sleep happens on an involuntary basis. While processes occur during sleep that are both involuntary and predominantly unconscious, sleep is a process that necessitates mental fortitude and discipline the initiate effectively every night. So, perhaps if we change our mindset, and begin to view sleep as a voluntary process that we have control over, we might find ourselves within greater proximity to both adequate sleep and solutions to sleep related problems.