Do We Really Need Sleep?

According to Harvard (sounds like a reputable source), we do, indeed, need sleep even if science doesn’t know why. Yet.

There are some theories on it, though.

Why do I care? Well, other than the sleepless nights of late, I have a certain character who is quite skilled with sword and shield that is about to lose a fight because of sleep deprivation. This seemed legitimate given how I’ve felt lately, but I wanted to know if the science backs me up on this.

Looks like it might.

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Most us feel better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. Better able to focus, we feel better, and we’re just in a better mood. The Harvard article relates eating to sleeping. We’re driven to eat by the powerful force of hunger. There’s a reason it’s the first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We are also driven to sleep by being tired.

Sleep is also on the first level of needs.

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From Wiki Commons

Scientists have apparently tried all sorts of sleep deprivation studies to see what happens when humans and other animals don’t get sleep. Still no conclusive answers.

 They do have a couple of theories:

Inactivity Theory – This says that sleep was evolutionary to keep us inactive when we’re most likely to get eaten by a lion. Seems pretty bunk as it would be safer to be awake and hiding in your cave from the lion than asleep and unaware of the lion. I suppose it was a start, and that’s what science is all about.

 

Energy Conservation Theory – One upon a time, there was no such thing as an obesity epidemic. Food was scarce, and humans even had to adapt to eating meat to get all of the fuel our massive brains needed. This theory suggests that sleep reduces our body’s energy consumption during times when it’s least efficient to search for food. Research backs this up as we use as much as 10 percent less energy while asleep. Gotta be more to it, in my opinion, though, as many American are over nourished but still suffering from the ill effects of sleep deprivation.

 

           Restorative Theories – This basically says we sleep so that our brain and body can repair itself from all that we did to it while awake. Research is starting to back this up after a series of studies showed animals deprived entirely of sleep lose immune function and die in weeks. More research has shown us that certain major repair the body does like muscle growth, tissue repair, and the release of growth hormones occur mostly during sleep.

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Brain Plasticity Theory – Science is discovering that sleep is at least correlated (if not causal) to changes in the brain. Studies have given us more insight into this, showing us the link between sleep deprivation and the ability to learn or perform tasks. 

Ha! There we go! My scientific evidence that it’s harder to perform tasks when sleep deprived! Backs up my personal experience at any rate. And perhaps it would realistically slow my Knight enough to bring him to his knees.

 

How about you? Ever experience the downside of sleep deprivation? Maybe you don’t need as much sleep as the rest of us? Or maybe you need more? Could you believe a sleep-deprived character would have a hard time swinging his sword?

Morning Children: A Special Torment to Writers

My husband and I are both night people. We’ve learned to adjust our internal clocks to take into account work and other grown-up responsibilities. While it’s not nearly as hard to get up at 6 am now as it was when I was a teenager, I didn’t have to get up at 6 am on Saturday when I was a teen.

Our oldest child is a morning person. Always has been, and she’s never had a concept of “weekend”. We had to get her a digital clock before she was three so that we could forbid her from leaving her bedroom in the morning before her clock said 6 on it. And yes, she learned numbers early so we weren’t getting up with the sun in the summer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

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While I’ve been able to adjust myself to getting up long before a night-person should, I haven’t convinced my muse to join me.

As much as I’ve sat diligently in front of my computer during afternoon nap-time on the weekends, my muse is nowhere to be found. Sure, I can pound out a few words, but it’s not the same. Whether you write, paint, compose music, there’s this creative zone that you get into that allows you to achieve more in an hour than you can in three. There’s something magical about this time. It’s like fairy wings and unicorn farts have jumped into the mortal plane.

For me, this ultra-creative time always, always, always comes after 8 pm. Usually later, but given my current need to be up with the birds, I try to be in bed before 10:30 because 6 am comes around awfully early.

There are those days when inspiration strikes, and I seize upon it, blowing through my bedtime even though I know will pay for it in the morning. And oh do I! Nothing quite like a chipper preschooler bouncing around the house rather than getting ready for school to put your previous night’s choice into perspective.

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Of course, my preschooler isn’t making the beds, eating her breakfast, or getting ready for the day. Heck no!  These are days that she requires the most wrangling. It’s like she knows I’m struggling and chooses that time to drown me rather than throw me a rope. Because children smell weakness and will exploit it at every opportunity.

I wish I had something insightful to offer. Some way that I’ve conquered the muse and brought her to my side before the owls come out. But I haven’t. I still have to make the choice most nights as to whether I’m on a roll and have to keep going, or whether I need to be a grown-up and go to bed. I’d love to say the grown-up wins most nights…

 

How about you? Are you a morning person or a night person? Does it work for you? When do you find yourself most creative? Have you figured out how to get your muse to come on your terms?