What Happens When We Sleep Many biological processes happen during sleep:
The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste. Nerve cells communicate and reorganize, which supports healthy brain function. The body repairs cells, restore energy and releases molecules like hormones and proteins. These processes are critical for our overall health. Without them, our bodies can’t function correctly. Let’s take a closer look at why we sleep, along with what happens if we don’t get enough.
Why do we sleep? A lot is still unknown about the purpose of sleep. However, it’s widely accepted that there isn’t just one explanation for why we need to sleep. It’s likely necessary for many biological reasons.
Energy conservation. Sleeping allows us to reduce our caloric needs by spending part of our time functioning at a lower metabolism. Cellular restoration. The idea is that sleep allows cells to repair and regrow. This is supported by many important processes that happen during sleep.
Brain repair. When you sleep, your brain’s glymphatic (waste clearance) system clears out waste from the central nervous system. It removes toxic byproducts from your brain, which build up throughout the day. This allows your brain to work well when you wake up.
There are many other important processes that sleep regulates including emotional well-being, weight maintenance, insulin function, immunity, and heart health just to name a few.
How much sleep do you need? The recommended amount of sleep depends on your age. It also varies from person to person, but the CDC suggests the following durations based on age:
Birth to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours, including naps
1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours, including naps
3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours, including naps
6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
18 to 60 years: 7 or more hours
61 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
65 years and older: 7 to 8 hours
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Lack of sleep is also associated with an increased risk of injury for both adults and children. Driver drowsiness, for example, can contribute to serious car accidents and even death.
The bottom line Sleep keeps us healthy and functioning well. It lets your body and brain repair, restore, and reenergize. If you don’t get enough sleep, you might experience side effects like poor memory and focus weakened immunity, and mood changes.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist. They can determine the underlying cause and help improve the quality of your sleep.