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Do We Need To Sleep?

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Introduction

Do We Need To Sleep? It has been proposed, by some, that humans do not really need to sleep, and that we do so only out of habit. However, much research would suggest otherwise. It is true that some individuals (e.g. those suffering from insomnia) are able to live on very small amounts of sleep, but nevertheless, they do need some. Studies of sleep deprivation have found that there may be severe consequences of not sleeping at. Randy Gardner, for example, went without sleep for 11 nights. By the end of this period, he suffered severe hallucinations and paranoia. He found interacting with other people difficult and even lost some of his sense of personal identity. There were, however, no long term consequences. There is evidence that lack of sleep may even lead to death. One 52 year old man's hypothalamus, including the part which regulates sleep, was severely damaged due to a viral infection. ...read more.

Middle

because it is too dark for them to do anything). However, this does not seem to be applicable to humans - in order to meet the current demands of society (such as work and social activity), being awake all of the time would be of extreme value, especially as electric lights and so on mean that 24 hour activity would be possible. It is difficult to see, then, how sleep could be advantageous as Webb suggested. Neither can Meddis' (1975) theory be easily applied to humans. He suggested that sleep evolved so that animals can remain inactive and, consequently, hidden at times when they are more likely to be predated. As humans are the species highest in the food chain, it is unlikely that this best explains why we sleep. It is questionable whether this theory can even be applied to non-human animals. It has been found that predators generally have more sleep per 24 hour period than animals of prey. ...read more.

Conclusion

In this REM sleep, dreams are most likely to occur and so if, as has been proposed, dreams serve important functions (such as getting rid of 'parasite information' so that neural connections can be freed, or solving problems which may be being experienced in waking life), then it would follow that REM sleep is, in fact, essential. It would seem that most evidence points towards sleep being a necessary phenomenon but psychologists are not able to give exact reasons why. Although studies give good insight into and provide useful information about the nature and purposes of sleep, it is unethical to deprive participants of sleep for too long and so possibilities for research are limited. Nevertheless, most theories of sleep have been supported in some way and so it is likely that sleep has evolved for a variety of reasons and serves a number of different physiological and psychological functions. ...read more.

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