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[3-Minutes Blog] Why We Sleep

Reading time: 3 minutes and 10 seconds

You spend one-third of your life sleeping. 

Have you ever asked yourself, why you sleep and why Allah subuhanawuta’la made sleeping such an essential part of your day?  

In the last few decades, scientists have been searching for the real reason why we sleep. Mathew Walker, one of the world’s leading scientists in sleep research, wrote an excellent book about sleep, with the same title as this article: Why We sleep. 

In chapter six of that incredible book, he begins talking about the benefits of sleep. This little paragraph succinctly summarises almost all the reason for why we sleep: 

 “AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?

While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate. If this were a drug, many people will be disbelieving. Those who were convinced would pay large sums of money for even the smallest dose. Should clinical trials back up the claims, share prices of the pharmaceutical company that invented the drug would skyrocket.

Of course, the ad is not describing some miracle new tincture or a cure-all wonder drug, but rather the proven benefits of a full night of sleep. The evidence supporting these claims have been documented in more than 17,000 well-scrutinized and scientific reports to date. As for the prescription cost, well, there isn’t one. It’s free. Yet all too often, we shun the nightly invitations to receive our full dose of this all natural remedy–with terrible consequences.

Failed by the lack of public education, most of us do not realize how remarkable a panacea sleep truly is.”

In the same chapter, he argues that “sleep is the universal health care provider: whatever the physical or mental ailment, sleep has a prescription it can dispense.”

In the next few chapters, he goes deep into why we sleep and how crucial enough sleep is for our body and mind. 

In this and the upcoming articles, I would like to share some significant reasons for why we sleep, and all of them are based on sound scientific studies. 

Sleep for the brain (learning and memory)

Sleep restores the brain’s capacity for learning, making room for new memories. During sleep, the brain consolidates what we learned during the days. 

So both for learning and memory, sleep is an essential foundation. Even a short nap of 20-minutes gives you 20 per cent learning advantage against those who don’t have a nap. 

Now imagine what the result would be for a student who has an 8-hour full night sleep vs a student who pulls an all-nighter for the next day exam? Dr Matthew Walkers team wanted to test this and found out that the group who pulled an all-nighter was 40% more deficient in their learning ability. In other words, this is a difference between acing and failing an exam.

Based on this and many other studies, we now know that sleep works like a “save” button for the materials you’ve learned the night before. 

Your ability to memorise and retain information is critical for learning. However, your short-term memory capacity is small. So if you want to keep the information you learned (such as Quran memorisation, learning for exams etc.) and to remember for later use, the information should be kept in the long-term memory of your brain. 

Your good night sleep is essential to shift all the short term memory storage into long-term storage in the brain. 

In the upcoming 3-Minute Blogs, I’ll dig deeper into why we sleep. 

For today, here is the takeaway lesson for you: Your sleep is the universal health care provider. Hence, prioritise your sleep and get at least 8 hours of shut-eye every day.