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.


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.

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.


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?