MDPI Blog– Sleep has a huge influence on our physical and mental health. Insufficient sleep is related to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, depression, diabetes, stress, and much more.
Not only this, but oversleeping has also been shown to negatively affect health or at least be a symptom of poor health.
It’s a difficult balance to strike. Most research suggests that between 7 and 9 hours is optimal.
With insomnia affecting around 6-10% of the adult population, research on how to improve our sleep and the adverse effects of our sleeping habits is more important than ever.
Despite it being ubiquitous across the animal kingdom, relatively little is known about the evolutionary purpose of sleep.
We know it supports healthy brain functioning, as well as many other physiological processes, but nobody quite understands how or why the brain disconnects itself from its environment.
Many theories have been proposed to explain its function. And whilst some have been substantiated – such as its roles in memory processing and repairing DNA – many remain uncertain.
This highlights the multifaceted role of sleep, likely taking on multiple functions as we evolved. What we can be certain of, though, is that its regulation is determined by our bodies’ cycles.
Whilst the overarching purpose of sleep remains elusive, our circadian rhythms are well-understood.
These are 24-hour-long cycles that determine when we dose off and rise – i.e., our sleep-wake cycle – and have been broadly seen across many forms of life, including bacteria, fungi, animals, and plants. This is largely influenced by environmental factors, such as light/dark, temperature, etc.
They should therefore be huge considerations in our approach to sleep. For millions of years, life has evolved and flourished under this framework.
So, with the advent of modern technology and the resulting changes to our daily lives, it’s no wonder so many people struggle with adequately resting in contemporary society …